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Rays: Longoria's new pact worth the risk

Rays: Longoria's new pact worth the risk

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Rays: Longoria's new pact worth the risk
ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria's six-year, $100 million contract extension doesn't affect the Rays' short-term plans at all. He still has four years left on arguably the most club-friendly contract in baseball, and he wasn't going anywhere until it expired. But it did raise questions about the franchise's long-term plans.

Can the Rays keep winning in the American League East with such a limited payroll? Can they keep their franchise pitcher, David Price, along with their franchise player? Once the extension begins in 2017, can Tampa Bay afford to field competitive teams while paying Longoria more than any player in Rays history?

"There are other teams around the country who have a different kind of revenue stream," Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg said during Monday's press conference. "But that's not going to stop me and us from doing everything and anything we can to put a successful product on the field and have an organization people are proud of."

Getting to the heart of the issue and the subject of endless debate in the area, Sternberg was asked directly if the Rays will need to get out of Tropicana Field and play in a new stadium to help build a competitive team around Longoria and his big contract extension.

"In order for it to work well," Sternberg said. "If by the end of this contract we're not, it's not going to work out well."

A $100 million deal would be a huge risk for any team, but that's especially true for the Rays, who have managed to put together a successful five-year run despite low attendance and a small budget. Sternberg confided the move was an enormous gamble and that the team is, in a sense, betting on something happening during the course of Longoria's contract that will increase the club's revenue.

"If it doesn't get done, it doesn't mean we blow up and turn into a pumpkin. It could happen, but it doesn't mean it's going to happen," Sternberg said. "The ball is going to need to move forward for us to be able to do what we'd be proud of. Let's put it that way."

Granted, revenue is up across Major League Baseball. The recent agreements with FOX, TBS and ESPN will provide each team with about an additional $50 million, but Sternberg pointed out that the national TV deals didn't impact the negotiations at all, as the two sides began discussing a long-term extension back in February. The Rays' current local TV contract expires in 2016, after which they are free to negotiate a new, and potentially more lucrative, deal.

Theoretically, Longoria's contract doesn't prohibit the Rays from offering Price a similar deal, but Sternberg explained it makes it more complicated. If the Rays wanted to lock up Longoria and Price for the long haul, they wouldn't be able to afford much else.

"You've got to make your decision," Sternberg said. "We're going to eat steak and we're going to eat lobster and we're going to order some wine, but we're not going to be able to turn the heat on and the house isn't going to get painted."

For his part, Longoria was mindful of the Rays' finances during the negotiations, saying he "didn't want to be the one sucking up all the payroll" to the point that they can't bring in free agents or keep their young stars.

Though the future may still be surrounded with questions, the Rays guaranteed only one thing Monday: Longoria will be in their lineup the next 10 years, and they would be happy to have him for the rest of his career.

"I think the opportunity to have a player like Evan, who's been here since he started, and to be a Ray for the length of time that we're talking about weighed so heavily into it," Sternberg said. "One of the challenges we'll have is figuring out how to take the next step for our organization here."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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