Evan Longoria debuted with the Rays on April 12, 2008, leading them to their first World Series as a rookie that year. He hit that unbelievable walk-off homer on that unforgettable final day of the 2011 season, and he piled up club record after club record. Longoria was up to
Evan Longoria debuted with the Rays on April 12, 2008, leading them to their first World Series as a rookie that year. He hit that unbelievable walk-off homer on that unforgettable final day of the 2011 season, and he piled up club record after club record. Longoria was up to No. 13 on Major League Baseball's list of active players who had spent the longest time with their original team, but that all ended when he was traded this week to San Francisco.
The trade means it is time to take stock again of that uncommon breed of professional athlete who can start with one franchise and stay there for a generation. Here are the top 10, ranked by chronological MLB debut dates:
10. Homer Bailey, Reds: June 8, 2007
Bailey beat teammate Joey Votto by about two months to make this list. The right-hander was drafted seventh overall by Cincinnati in 2004, and he debuted at the age of 21. Projected as the No. 2 starter heading into Spring Training, Bailey is signed through '19 with a mutual option for '20.
9. Ryan Braun, Brewers: May 25, 2007
The outfielder said he has "great hope" for a Brewers club that improved by 13 wins in 2017, but the big question is whether he will be part of the continued rebuilding strategy or be traded for pitching. Braun has three years left on his contract, with a mutual option for 2021.
8. Alex Gordon, Royals: April 2, 2007
It looked like touch-and-go at one point for the outfielder, but he seems well on his way to Royals lifer status. Gordon was brought back by the club amid much intrigue following the club's 2015 World Series championship, and he is signed through the next two years, with a mutual option for 2020.
7. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: Aug. 22, 2006
Pedroia has been a Red Sox infielder for as long as most teenage Boston fans can remember, and he has four years remaining on his contract, so the chances of finishing as a lifer are pretty good. Pedroia started at shortstop against the Angels in his debut, and the next year, he helped the club to its second World Series title of the decade.
We pause here to raise a special toast of holiday cheer to Andre Ethier, who would rank in front of Pedroia at No. 7 if he returns in a Dodgers uniform again next spring. Alas, Ethier is now a free agent and not expected back with the team he debuted for on May 2, 2006. If he goes elsewhere, then you can say he finished his tenure with a bang, stroking a couple of hits over five games in his first World Series. But you also would scratch him off this list.
6. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: Sept. 11, 2005
Every time you think about writing off Waino, the 36-year-old righty returns to a leadership role and turns back into a workhorse.
"We're hopeful that he's the Adam of old," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Moleliak said after last season.
The 2018 season will be the last year of Wainwright's five-year deal, unless St. Louis extends him.
5. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: Sept. 1, 2005
The 33-year-old first baseman had a banner year for Washington in 2017, continuing a career resurgence by hitting .303/.573/.930, with a whopping 135 OPS+, 36 homers, 108 RBIs and 90 runs scored. Zimmerman is signed for the next two years, with an $18 million club option for 2020.
4. Felix Hernandez, Mariners: Aug. 4, 2005
He may not be the same King Felix that he was early in his reign in Seattle, and he may or may not get to carry on his nine-year streak of Opening Day starts after injury issues and declining power numbers in 2017. But a generation of Mariners fans have to come to rely on having No. 34 around, and he has two more years left on his contract, with a $1 million team option in 2020.
3. David Wright, Mets: July 21, 2004
"I think I still have something to give," Wright said after undergoing rotator cuff surgery in September.
Wrights holds numerous Mets records since replacing Ty Wigginton at third base in a home game against Montreal and becoming Captain America along the way.
2. Yadier Molina, Cardinals: June 3, 2004
It is a much different picture today than it was at this time last year, when Molina's future with the Cardinals was a big question mark. A subsequent contract extension cleared that all up, and in 2017 Molina hit .273/.312/.439, with 18 homers and 82 RBIs while making his eighth National League All-Star team.
1. Joe Mauer, Twins: April 5, 2004
The Twin Cities native always wanted to be a Twin, and although he is only signed through 2018, there is still good reason to think he will stay that way for good. Mauer is still productive, coming off the best three-year stretch of his career in terms of durability (433 games played, or 144 per year), and he coming off his best year at first base. He helped the Twins to the postseason last season by hitting .305/.384/.417 with 71 RBIs and a 116 OPS+. It seems like an eternity since he singled off Cleveland's Rafael Betancourt for his first hit.
It is a hard list to stay on for long -- nothing like in the old days when a Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Cal Ripken Jr. or Mike Schmidt were single-team lifer legends. Even Michael Trout played the last year or two amidst trade whispers, unfounded or otherwise. Will the best player in baseball finish his career as an Angel? Will Bryce Harper make it to free agency or will the Nationals be able to keep him long-term?
Clubs can change their strategies, health can decline and market forces can create new opportunities. As we just saw with Justin Verlander going to Houston and winning a ring, and then with Longoria heading west, such security is never assured.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him on Twitter @Marathoner.