In a move that many fans never expected the Tampa Bay Rays to make, third baseman Evan Longoria has been traded.
The deal with the San Francisco Giants is the latest sign the team is looking to rebuild, as it ends an almost decade-long relationship with the face of the franchise.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday afternoon, Longoria said he had hoped to spend his entire career with the Rays. But he also wanted them to show the kind of commitment he had shown to them when he signed two long-term contracts.
"I obviously have wished that they would decide to commit to adding to the roster and to trying to contend year in and year out, and I understand that that's not the way that the organization has done it historically," Longoria said.
Longoria, 32, signed a six-year, $100 million contract extension in 2012. He was owed $13.5 million in 2018, but the team has been slashing payroll this offseason.
If Longoria had stayed with the Rays, he would have attained 10-and-5 rights , meaning ten years in the major leagues, including the last five with the same team. That would have given him the ability to veto a trade to any other team.
Rays officials thanked Longoria for his time with the team.
"Evan is our greatest Ray. For a decade, he's been at the center of all of our successes, and it's a very emotional parting for us all," said Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg. "I speak for our entire organization in wishing Evan and his wonderful family our absolute best."
Others also expressed regret over the move, including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
Disappointed to learn that @Evan3Longoria has been traded. St. Pete will miss him. We thank him for all he's done for our community and wish him much success in San Fran.
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) December 20, 2017
Longoria has extensive ties to the Tampa Bay area off the field.
He and his family are involved in a number of charitable causes, including the Great Explorations Children's Museum, which they recently gave half a million dollars to. He's also owner of Ducky's sports lounge in Tampa.
"I'm saying good-bye not only to a fanbase and to a team, but to a lot of friends and people in the organization that I've been with since I felt like I was a kid, when I was 21 or 22," Longoria said. "Those people are the hardest to say good-bye to, because I feel like they've seen me basically become an adult."
Longoria was drafted in the first round in 2006 (#3 overall), before being named American League Rookie of the Year in 2008 and a three-time All-Star. He's also has finished in the top 20 of the AL MVP voting six times and won three Gold Gloves Awards.
Last season, he hit .261 with 20 homers, 86 RBIs and a .737 OPS. While those numbers were mostly lower than his career averages, it was the ninth year that he hit at least 20 homers.
In return for Longoria and cash considerations, the Rays get four players, including outfielder Denard Span and infielder Christian Arroyo - who both played high school baseball locally.
While Span, a Tampa Catholic HS graduate, has spent 10 years in the major leagues, Arroyo and the other two players coming to the Rays, pitchers Matt Krook and Stephen Woods, are all among the Giants' top 30 prospects.