Barely an hour after news of his trade to the San Francisco Giants was made public on Wednesday, Evan Longoria faced the press in a conference call to express his feelings about the move. He made it very clear that the team is headed for a rebuild, and in trading him, they believed they were giving him a better opportunity to win than if he stayed with the Rays.
When asked by Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin if he felt like the Rays hadn’t honored their commitment to Longoria — who had signed two club-friendly contract extensions with the team — he replied, “Eric [Neander] and Matt [Silverman] in the front office have been very open and communicative from day one... they were very open to letting me go somewhere where they felt like I had the best opportunity as a player to win and also for them to be able to accomplish what they want to accomplish in trying to rebuild the franchise.”
He was candid in revealing what went on in his discussions with the front office. “I was very clear to them, my hope was that if it did happen that it would be a win for both sides,” he said. When speaking of the outcome of the trade he added, “I don’t know that they could have done it any better.”
Longoria was naturally asked about his oft-mentioned desire to play out his whole career in a Rays jersey, something he had never shied away from discussing. “It was pretty apparent to me and lot of other people in the organization that the Rays were ready to go in a different direction and wanted to rebuild.”
The idea of the rebuild loomed large for Longoria when it came time to think about the trade. Like most veteran players it became a question of how he wanted the later chapters of his career to play out. “It would be tough for me to sit around and lose 100 games... I said I wasn’t really ready to go through that for the opportunity to maybe have a couple years at the back end of my career where we have a chance to compete in the division again.”
Things took a more emotional turn when Longoria was asked how things would change for him, given how deep his presence in the Tampa Bay area is felt, both in baseball, small business, and just his general involvement in the community.
“Along with leaving friends on the team, and staff members, that’s the hardest part. Being somewhere for ten years, me and my family put a lot into the community and tried to do as much as we could,” he said. “Those things that we’ve committed to are still, somehow, going to be ongoing relationships... There’s going to be a lot that needs to be figured out.”
When asked if he thought the trade was inevitable, like those of David Price or James Shields, Longoria said, “It really wasn’t until this year, really until this offseason, where I thought that it was a real possibility. I thought because I was already committed to a long-term deal that there wouldn’t be much incentive for them to trade me.” He went on to say, “I think they felt this was the best time for them to try and rebuild from the ground up and build something fairly quickly in a trade market.”
Asked about his message for the heartbroken fanbase, Longoria assured the press on the call that he would be writing a thorough statement addressing fans and the community after he was able to better collect his thoughts.
He did say he truly believes the front office thought it was “the best decision for the organization moving forward.” He added, “The mark of a true fan is when you’re a fan [through] thick and thin. My hope is nothing but the best for the Rays organization and for the fanbase, and I hope that they can see that and continue to support the guys that are there and that are going to continue to go out there and try to win games for the ball club.”
He admitted there were few things in life that have impacted him as emotionally as this trade, citing the birth of his children, the death of his grandparents, and losing the World Series as the only examples he could think of that were more difficult for him. “It’s pretty tough to handle.”
The trade itself was foreshadowed in an uptick of offseason conversation with Neander, something Longoria hadn’t dealt with in previous years.
Asked if he would have liked things to go a different direction, Longoria said “I wished maybe they would decide to commit to adding to the roster and trying to contend year in and year out. I guess I understand that that’s not the way the organization has done it historically. There’s a part of me that is let down by that, but it’s been the way that it’s been as long as I’ve been here, so I guess that’s not too much of a surprise.”
He reflected on his first time taking batting practice on the field as his favorite memory, and one that has stuck with him. “I don’t think I hit but two balls out of the infield, and everyone was thinking ‘who did we just draft at number three overall?’” Humble, as always, he knew from that moment he needed to work to impress everyone in the organization.
In the end, he summarized it better than anyone else could: “Ten years is a lot of memories.”