Evan Longoria was already under the Rays’ control through 2016 thanks to a long-term contract he signed literally one week after his big-league debut in 2008, but today the two sides agreed to a six-year, $100 million extension that runs through 2022.
By combining the remainder of his previous contract and the $100 million extension Longoria will now be paid $136 million for the next 10 seasons. Tampa Bay also holds an option for 2023, potentially keeping him under contract through age 37. In other words, this is essentially a career-long commitment.
Tampa Bay made a very bold, unique move signing Longoria to a long-term deal days into his MLB career and this is another aggressive, interesting decision. Clearly the penny-pinching Rays couldn’t compete for a player like Longoria on the open market, but by taking on the considerable risk of a decade-long commitment to a player they already controlled for another four years they will be in line to get a significant discount if he stays healthy and productive into his 30s.
Of course, injuries have been a major issue for Longoria. He missed 88 games this year with a torn hamstring and was out for 28 games in 2011, but his production has never waned. Longoria hit .289 with 17 homers and an .896 OPS in 2012 and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft has an .877 career OPS that ranks third among all active third basemen behind only Alex Rodriguez and David Wright (and the retiring Chipper Jones).
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.