Through the significant turnover the Rays have undergone since winning the American League pennant 10 years ago, Evan Longoria remained the one constant.On Wednesday, the club traded the longest-tenured player in franchise history to the Giants for a return headlined by their top prospect, infielder Christian Arroyo, along with veteran
Through the significant turnover the Rays have undergone since winning the American League pennant 10 years ago, Evan Longoria remained the one constant.
On Wednesday, the club traded the longest-tenured player in franchise history to the Giants for a return headlined by their top prospect, infielder Christian Arroyo, along with veteran outfielder Denard Span and pitchers Matt Krook and Stephen Woods, who were ranked as the San Francisco's Nos. 25 and 29 prospects, respectively, by MLBPipeline.com. Arroyo is now ranked No. 4 on the Rays' Top 30 Prospects list.
"It's obviously a tough day for myself and for my family, and for all of the friendships and relationships that I've made over the years," Longoria said.
"I speak for our entire organization in wishing Evan and his wonderful family our absolute best," said Stuart Sternberg, who became principal owner one offseason before Longoria was selected No. 3 overall in the 2006 MLB Draft.
In trading Longoria, along with cash considerations, the Rays are no longer responsible for the $81 million he is owed through 2022 (along with the $13 million option for '23, which included a $5 million buyout), aligning with their offseason goal of trimming payroll. They had been more prominently linked to potentially dealing All-Star right-hander Chris Archer, who is under a very team-friendly contract over the next four years, and last year's MLB saves leader Alex Colome, who is in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
But Longoria became a more urgent trade chip because he will gain 10-and-5 rights three days into the 2018 season, which would allow him to void any trade. Rays general manager Erik Neander said Longoria's impending 10-and-5 rights were one of many factors in Wednesday's trade.
"It's there. It's something, much like the finances are something, and those things are relevant to any player," Neander said. "I'm not going to run from that as a consideration, but that wasn't an overriding, overwhelming factor in our decision to do this. It was probably just one of many different things that were factored in that we talked about."
Longoria, 32, has been the face of the Rays for the last decade. He won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2008 and blossomed into a three-time All-Star, becoming a fan and front office favorite for his leadership and loyalty. In each of the club's 30 postseason games, Longoria started at third base.
"He's been our greatest Ray," Neander said. "The successes that we've had over this past decade, much of that is owed to him, and that's something that will never be forgotten here."
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With Wednesday's trade, the Rays have positioned themselves for the future. In adding Arroyo (the No. 57 overall prospect), who was the centerpiece in the return, Tampa Bay now has seven of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects. Their Triple-A Durham affiliate won a championship last year, and their big league club has a group of blossoming young talent, such as outfielders Kevin Kiermaier, Mallex Smith and Steven Souza Jr., and catcher Wilson Ramos.
"Obviously there's genuine excitement about all four of the players that were acquired," manager Kevin Cash said. "Arroyo, being that he's versatile. I think we all look at him as a young player that is going to kind of come up in that grouping with some of our young prospects that have spent time in Durham, and then also the young players that we have in the big leagues that experienced big league baseball this year. Just building off that core and continue to build that core."
The Giants' first-round pick in 2013, Arroyo -- who is from Brooksville, Fla., and grew up rooting for Tampa-area teams -- made his MLB debut last season to much fanfare after surging through the Minor League ranks. He earned his first callup in April, but he struggled to a .192/.244/.304 slash line in 135 plate appearances over 35 games, and he was sent down in June. Arroyo then missed a bulk of time after injuring his left wrist and, after returning, breaking his left hand -- an injury that required surgery and ended his season in July. The Rays expect Arroyo to be healthy by Opening Day.
"Arroyo really fits that bill for us," Neander said. "When you look at his skillset, his talents as someone we got to see a lot early in the year and really thought he was about to take off in his age-21/22 season, he was on his way to breaking out offensively."
"[Arroyo] has a tremendous opportunity to bring new life to that organization," Longoria said. "That was kind of the way I looked at it when I was a young player, and I think he'll have the same opportunity. I know that it's probably hard for the fan base to see right now, but obviously in recent past, you look at what the Astros did and I think that's kind of the arc that the Rays would like to take now and build a core group of young players that they can build off of."
Krook, 23, was the Giants' fourth-round pick in 2016, though he was on track for a career with the Marlins before a post-Draft physical raised concerns over his pitching shoulder, thus nixing the deal he had in place as their supplemental first-round pick in '13. The Giants have been patient with the left-hander, whom they hoped to develop as a starter.
Woods, 22, was interestingly enough a sixth-round pick of the Rays in 2013, but he turned down their offer to attend the University of Albany, where he went 7-16 with a 6.10 ERA over three years. He was the Giants' eighth-round selection in '16.
Span, 33, was a first-round pick in 2002 out of Tampa Catholic and he still lives in the area. He hit .268/.330/.402 with 23 homers, 96 RBIs and 143 runs scored as the Giants' primary leadoff hitter the past two seasons, playing in 272 games. Span struggled in AT&T Park's spacious gaps with a -12 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™, which ranked the worst among center fielders. The 10-year veteran also spent five years with the Twins and three years with the Nationals. He is owed $11 million in 2018, with a $12 million team option in '19 that includes a $4 million buyout.
Following what could be the first significant move of the offseason for the Rays' front office, Neander didn't rule out Wednesday's trade as an independent transaction in the midst of what he acknowledged is an organizational rebuild.
"This is clearly the first big transaction for us this offseason, but there is a lot of [offseason] left to go," Neander said. "There's a lot that's up in the air at this point. It's hard to say. When you're talking about trading Evan Longoria, what that means in taking a talent like that away from our team. That's not lost on the near-term impact, but there's a lot of time left and we're going to continue to explore every opportunity that can be put to us that has a chance to make our organization better."
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.