Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How a minor demotion could be a major benefit

I've been hearing that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have been considering sending 3B phenom Evan Longoria back to the minors for some additional "seasoning". Considering his spring training stats (.333 AVG, .488 OBP, 1.255 OPS, 3 HR, 5:9 K:BB ratio), he's proving he's ready to go right now.

Except that a demotion for a short period of time would be a great business decision for the Rays, as unfair to Longoria as it might seem.

There's a great example of why it might be worth sending Longoria back to the minors for a month or two, as recent as last year. Take the cases of Alex Gordon (2007 pre-season fave for ROY) and Ryan Braun (the 2007 Spring Training behemoth):

Kansas City's Alex Gordon and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun were both college players taken in the first five picks of the 2005 draft. (Just as Longoria was in 2006.) Both had strong seasons in Double A in 2006 (just as Longoria did in '07) and came to spring training last year with their eyes on making the big-league club.

The Royals kept Gordon on opening day, and he promptly sputtered to a 1-for-24 start. By the end of May, he was hitting .185, and he finished the season at .247 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs. The Brewers, on the other hand, sent Braun to Triple A for two months. When he was promoted, he tore up the National League, finishing with a .324 average, 34 homers, 97 RBIs and a rookie of the year award.

And, oh, yeah, Gordon will now be a free agent one year before Braun.

But it's silly to ignore Tampa Bay's realities. Having Longoria for an extra month in 2008 is not going to have a major impact on the season, but having him under contract in 2014 could be a godsend.

The subtleties of the Collective Bargaining Agreement are pretty interesting, if you're into that sort of minutae. Otherwise, it's just a fat document full of bureaucratic mumbojumbo and mind-numbing rules and regulations.

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