Rays sever ties to past success by trading Longoria to Giants

Evan Longoria throws for an out in Tampa Bay

For a while it appeared as though Evan Longoria would play his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays, but he was traded to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday in exchange for a package of four players. Longoria played for a decade in Tampa Bay, winning Rookie of the Year in 2008, the same season the Rays made their only World Series appearance, and his departure leaves the franchise without a notable identity.

Longoria was a staple at third base for Tampa Bay for a decade, winning three gold gloves and amassing team records in most of the batting categories, including home runs (261). The beginning of Longoria’s career coincided with an unprecedented period of success for the Rays, who followed up their World Series berth in their first playoff appearance with three more trips to the postseason over the next five years. Unlike many of Tampa Bay’s other stars from the time, who were traded away in lieu of signing big contracts with the frugal franchise, Longoria signed a $100-million extension in 2012 that would have kept him with the Rays until he was 38 years old.

Tampa Bay last made the playoffs in 2013 and while Longoria’s play hasn’t been the reason for the team’s lack of success, he has shown signs of slowing down in recent years. He had one of his strongest seasons in terms of hitting in 2016, but struggled on the defensive side, while 2017 was arguably his weakest full season of hitting, but also his first gold glove season since 2010. The Giants are hoping Longoria can bounce back at the plate while maintaining the defensive form that eluded him for much of the last four years, which would in turn help them bounce back from an uncharacteristically dismal year.

San Francisco won just 64 games in 2017 - the franchise’s lowest full-season total since 1985. Nothing went particularly well for the Giants over the last year, but hitting was by far their biggest issue. Nobody beyond Buster Posey, Joe Panik, and Brandon Belt made much of a difference in San Francisco’s batting order, and adding Longoria should provide them with the power hitting those players lack. Longoria also allows the Giants to move on from former star Pablo Sandoval, who was reacquired in July to fill a hole at third base and hit .225 in 160 at-bats.

The Rays received former first-round pick Christian Arroyo, veteran outfielder Denard Span, and prospects Matt Krook and Stephen Woods in the deal, which also relieves the franchise of around $75 million in salary commitments. Arroyo is expected to take Longoria’s place as Tampa Bay’s starter at third base.