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The Evan Longoria trade should make you question everything about the Tampa Bay Rays

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What does trading the face of the franchise mean for the team and your fandom?

Seattle Mariners v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Evan Longoria has been traded to the Giants.

To say I’m in shock would be incomplete. There’s too much sadness intertwined with what I’m feeling. I’m certain the Germans have a word for it, but it’s a word I never want to know. I would rather this feeling be ineffable.

Evan Longoria is the face of the franchise, who committed himself and his career to retiring in a Rays jersey. To being a one-franchise man. He didn’t just bleed “blue and gold” or whatever color the Rays are. He fully embodied the Tampa Bay Rays.

And he wanted to stay.

Not once but twice Evan Longoria committed himself to a team-friendly contract, and has rewarded the Rays with a potential Hall of Fame career, earning his third Gold Glove in 2017 against steep competition.

To be a Rays fan is to be a fan of Evan Longoria.

His family is highly invested in this community, having just opened a new wing in the Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Pete. When vendor troubles have impacted Tropicana Field, his own restaurant has sponsored sections of the converted hockey arena the Rays have thus far been unable to escape.

Through thick and thin, through trade after trade of would-be franchise-defining players like Ben Zobrist, James Shields, and David Price, it is Longoria who has been the constant presence.

Now the dependable franchise cornerstone has been traded to the Giants, and at his position on the field will be a former Giants third baseman who hasn’t played meaningful baseball in two seasons due to injury.

One day the Rays will build a statue to someone outside the stadium, but who will it be?

It could have been Joe Maddon, but he’s now become a legend with the Cubs. It could have been Evan Longoria, with his number retired in glory, but he’s been cast aside for average prospects and the expiring contract of Denard Span. Perhaps it will be Mr. Moneybags on his way to declare bankruptcy instead.

Evan Longoria was one of the few good things about this franchise. Yet it seems the Rays were so incapable of paying his bargain salary, and the front office so desperate to cast aside the best player in franchise history, that not only are they taking a bad contract off the Giants’ hands in 2018, but they’re sending cash along as well.

The Tampa Bay Rays have traded third baseman Evan Longoria and cash considerations to the San Francisco Giants...

Were the Rays so desperate for the Giants’ 4th best prospect they needed to add cash to Longoria’s 5-year, $86 million deal? Denard Span is already owed $16 million over the next two years, it’s not a savings, so maybe they’ll try to trade him, too. But how could the financial outlook for 2020-2022 be so poor that the team cannot afford Evan Longoria? Will the team commit to the next wave of prospects with big contracts instead? Does that sound likely?

Even worse, why would the Rays front office do this to Evan Longoria? The Giants might already have the worst farm system in baseball, and if they didn’t before, they may now. They also might have the most expensive team in baseball, and the toughest division, with no projection toward the playoffs:

Longoria is being sent from a team five games out of the Wild Card in 2017 to a team that might be gunning for the No. 1 draft pick in 2018, while neither saving money in 2018 or making the current squad appreciably better.

The Rays will be worse in 2018 than they would have been with Longoria. The Giants are not a playoff team with Longoria and their future is darker moving forward than it would have been. I’m sure the San Francisco fanbase will enjoy the ride.

Everyone loses, but worst of all, particularly the fans in Tampa Bay.

I have no sympathy for the pocketbooks of the Tampa Bay ownership group. I have no sympathy for a front office that cannot maintain their commitment to a borderline Hall of Fame third baseman who wants to be buried in his Rays jersey.

I’m worse than shocked and sad. I’m also sick to my stomach, because if the Rays cannot afford Evan Longoria, how on earth are they going to pay for a new stadium?

Today is the second saddest day in Tampa Bay Rays history. The saddest will be when they are sold and move away for good.

The only question Rays fans should have after today is whether they should get off the ride now, or let their hearts be broken again when that day comes.

Evan, you didn’t ask for this. The fans didn’t ask for this. I can only imagine ownership asked for this, and I no longer want anything to do with them.

As you say goodbye to the Rays, maybe we all should too.

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