Evan Longoria is a former Rookie of the Year, a three time All Star, a two time Gold Glove Award winner, and a three time Top 10 MVP finisher. On top of all that, though, he’s under rated.
While Longoria is a a three time All Star, he hasn’t actually made the team since 2010, despite two seasons with WARs greater than 6.6 and two Top 10 MVP finishes. I’m not exactly sure why this is. On the face of it, Longo has everything that should make him a star: a $150 million contract, a spot in the middle of the order on a playoff caliber team (usually), and even TV commercials that feature him jumping out of a helicopter or saving a reporter with his bare hands.
Recently, Longoria was rumored to be in some internal discussions by the Cardinals who were considering pursuing both him and Cy Young award winner David Price. My first reaction to that rumor was to think that either the Cardinals were going to have to offer something along the lines of giving the Rays Busch Stadium and agreeing to move it to Florida, or Longoria was being seriously undervalued. According to almost everyone in the sport, the Rays are asking for an elite prospect haul in exchange for Price, to add Longoria to the deal, I can’t even imagine what it would take… unless my under rated theory is true.
Admittedly, Evan is having a seriously down season. His batting average is .262 and he’s only compiled 11 home runs, 48 RBIs and 4 steals. His WAR this year is only 2.1 through 100 games, putting him on pace for something a little north of 3 for the season. That total would be the lowest for any full season in his career, by a lot. Like the rest of the Rays, Longoria is struggling in 2014. A down year should not affect Longoria’s perception so much; he is on track to have a spectacular career.
Even if Longoria doesn’t add another single fraction of WAR to his 2014 total, he would finish his 7th season in the big leagues with a total of 38.6 wins above replacement. Lets compare that number to some other players and see how Longoria stacks up.
Here is the WAR of some select players over their first 7 years:
- Adrian Beltre: 23.3
- Scott Rolen: 32.0
- Cal Ripken: 37.7
- Derek Jeter: 36.8
- Robin Ventura: 26.6
- Aramis Ramirez: 20.6 (that was actually the second 7 years of his career, the first 7 were a disaster)
- Chipper Jones: 38.2
- Mike Schmidt: 30.3
- Miguel Cabrera: 26.0
- Robinson Cano: 29.1
- Nomar Garciaparra: 40.1
So, what does this all mean? Well, it seems that Evan Longoria is in elite company through his first 6 plus seasons in the pros. He’s better than simply above average players like Ventura and Ramirez and even better than way above average guys like Beltre and Cano. In fact, by this measure, Longoria is amongst some of the game’s elite like Jeter, Ripken, Jones, and Schmidt.
Now, there’s no guarantee that Longo can keep this pace up, especially given recent results. The hope is that he rights the ship and continues to develop. (He could certainly use a little boost in some of his career offensive numbers, I was surprised to find that he’s never hit .300.) The fear is that he’s Nomar, a guy who posted only 3.0 WAR over the rest of his career after those first 7 seasons.
At the very least, Longoria is worth the risk. This season he plummeted all the way down to 9th on Fangraphs annual trade value list and is owed maybe half what his market value would be as a free agent through 2023.
Longoria is a great player for the Rays to build around going forward. If they decide to blow things up, however, they shouldn’t settle for anything less than a Hershel Walker deal for their star third basemen, even if his star doesn’t currently shine as brightly as it should.