Could Evan Longoria return to Southern California? The face of the franchise is being mentioned as the Dodgers throw their hat into the ring for a potential Rays fire sale, and the rumor has some merit.
Longoria is about to be "on the wrong side of 30," as they say, while the Dodgers will need a new 3B after this season. But all of this chatter is coming exclusively from Jon Morosi, who was stoking the flames with a full article on the potential match last night:
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.
Longoria is on track for his fifth career season of at least 6+ WAR, with a 133 wRC+ and six years of team control for a mere $99 million, and a team-friendly option to follow. He represents a sizable upgrade over Justin Turner's expiring contract, but Turner is no slouch.
Following seasons of 157 and 141 wRC+, Turner had a slow start to the season, but has put up a 142 wRC+ in June, and has a 161 wRC+ in the month of July. What's more is his defense. Turner is a true third baseman and has done awkwardly when moving off the position, so "just slide Turner over to second to make room for Longoria" isn't a great option. A clubhouse favorite, if Turner were to stay with the Dodgers it should probably be at the hot corner.
The Dodgers need is not a 3B in this moment, and it's not clear why the Rays would be incentivized to deal a player as valuable as Longoria outside of a concern he'll not live up to his long-term deal.
Let's say Longoria continues his form next season but has a slight decrease in production year-over-year. Utilizing that team friendly option, here's what Longoria's value might look like:
That's surplus value of $103.9 million to the Rays over the life of Longoria's remaining contract. But that is also anticipating superior performance.
Let's say that Longoria's dip looks more like his previous two seasons, where his value was shifted more to his glove. Utilizing a floor of 2.0 WAR, here's the life of his contract:
Longoria dips into the red for the most expensive years of his contract, but despite those slight "negative-value years" still delivers $40 million in surplus to the Rays. This team is not looking to escape his contract by any means.
If another franchise wants Longoria, I would anticipate it taking one of the biggest overpay deals we've seen, and if that deal happens mid-season, it won't be with the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, if the Dodgers are indeed calling the Rays, they're probably talking pitching (Bud Norris is their number four starter).