Longoria's deal with Rays could be worth up to $44 million

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rookie third baseman Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays agreed Friday to a $17.5 million, six-year contract, a deal that could be worth up to $44.5 million over nine seasons.

Taken third overall in the 2006 amateur draft, Longoria appeared in just six major league game before agreeing to the deal. If he isn't sent down to the minors again, he would be guaranteed $19 million.

"First of all, I like being here," Longoria said. "It's an enjoyable place to live and play. Why not be here and be part of the nucleus of the team, the core group of young guys? As a player, you have to look out for what's best for you. For me, the security of a long-term contract and knowing that now I'm pretty much set for life, it's just very assuring to me. The money is one thing, but at the same time, it's what the player wants. What I wanted was to be set and just worry about going out and playing the game and winning."

Longoria gets $500,000 this year, $550,000 in 2009, $950,000 in 2010 and $2 million in 2011, a salary that would increase to $2.5 million if he is eligible for salary arbitration that year. He receives $4.5 million in 2012 and $6 million in 2013.

Tampa Bay has a $7.5 million option for 2014 with a $3 million buyout, with the buyout price increasing to $4 million if Longoria was eligible for arbitration in 2011.

By November 2014, the Rays must decide whether to exercise an option calling for salaries of $11 million in 2015 and $11.5 million in 2016. His 2016 salary can rise to $14 million, depending on his finish in MVP voting.

If Longoria's 2014 option is exercised, the 2015-16 option would carry a $1 million buyout.

"We're always open-minded," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "On both of our parts there's a risk reward. The point is, at this point in time, both sides feel very good about it and very comfortable."

The highest deal for a player with less than one year of major league service belongs to pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who signed a $52 million, six-year contract with Boston before the 2007 season.

Not including veterans who came over from Japan and Cuba, the previous high is believed to be the $17 million, six-year deal Drew Henson got from the New York Yankees in 2001 -- a deal the third baseman walked away from three years later to play football, costing him $12 million.

The 22-year-old Longoria was brought up from Triple-A Durham last Saturday and made his big league debut that day. Because he was not on the major league roster for the first 13 days of the season, Longoria's eligibility for free agency was pushed back an extra year until after the 2014 season.

Talks between the sides started in early March, and many of the contract details had been agreed upon on April 11, one day before Longoria came up to the Rays.

"It was something both sides wanted to explore," Friedman said. "It was something both sides had to make concessions along the way."

The Rays have signed a number of their younger players to long-term deals, including right-hander James Shields, and outfielders Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli.

"Being a low-revenue team, we have to think differently to keep our nucleus intact," Friedman said. "We're very committed to this. We hope to demonstrate it a lot of the future."

Left-hander Scott Kazmir and center fielder B.J. Upton are two other players that the Rays have an interest in signing to multiyear deals.