The Dodgers and Rays are engaged in trade discussions, sources say, and that is not surprising: Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations, was the Rays' general manager for nearly a decade. He was fond of many Tampa Bay players at the time he acquired them. Presumably, he remains fond of them now.
The next question then is the precise nature of those talks between the Dodgers and Rays -- and if Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay's three-time All-Star third baseman, is part of them.
Based on information from sources over the past several days, I believe there's a low probability of the Dodgers acquiring Longoria before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
But we can't rule out the possibility of Longoria returning to his native Southern California -- perhaps as early as this offseason.
Here are the facts:
• Longoria, 30, is on pace to have his best full season since at least 2011. He's combined the durability of the previous three seasons -- he played 482 of 486 games from '13-15 -- with the production he enjoyed earlier in his career.
• After this season, Longoria will be guaranteed $99 million over the next six years. The Dodgers are among the few Major League Baseball teams with the demonstrated ability to assume that much salary in a midseason trade. (Under the same ownership group, they added more than twice that amount in their August 2012 blockbuster deal with the Red Sox.)
• With Longoria's production this year, more teams believe his contract is valued properly. And from a purely economic standpoint, the last-place Rays could benefit from moving the largest contract in franchise history.
• If the Rays have any interest in trading their franchise player, the next 12 months represent their best opportunity to do so; as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times pointed out recently, Longoria is on track to obtain full no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player early in the 2018 season.
• Whether it's the acquisition of Longoria or another player, the Dodgers must address multiple positions on their infield between now and Opening Day 2017. Third baseman Justin Turner and second baseman Chase Utley will be free agents after this season.
Turner is among the biggest barriers to a Longoria trade over the next two weeks. He's popular in the clubhouse and integral to the lineup, with a .942 OPS since June 1. It's unclear if the Dodgers would be willing to move Turner to second base for the remainder of the season in order to clear room for Longoria, a two-time American League Gold Glove Award winner at third base.
The Dodgers may calculate -- reasonably -- that there's little chance of Longoria being dealt to another team prior to Aug. 1. The Astros had been in the market for a third baseman, but that is no longer the case following Friday's deal with Cuban free agent Yulieski Gurriel. The Giants have had interest in Longoria before, but they're not believed to be engaged in active talks with the Rays about him now.
So, we can expect the Dodgers and Rays to continue talking -- about Tampa Bay's pitchers and Logan Forsythe, an underrated player who can play the infield and outfield. In all likelihood, the discussion of Longoria will be more worthwhile in November.