- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Truth be told, Rays general manager Andrew Friedman doesn't really remember much about Evan Longoria from the first time he watched him play.
Friedman, in preparation for the 2005 draft, had gone to watch a college shortstop named Troy Tulowitzki and was in awe of a pregame fielding drill that Tulowitzki went through. Longoria, a teammate of Tulowitzki, had been a part of that, with the two infielders playing off each other a little bit, like dueling banjo players. But the game started and Friedman focused on Tulowitzki.
The following year, however, Friedman and the Rays locked in on Longoria, drafting him third overall and starting a working relationship that apparently will last decades, in light of the contract extension that was announced Monday. Longoria has always been precocious, Friedman said after the news conference, with an understanding of himself and what he was and what he wanted and what the team is trying to do. During his news conference, Longoria gave the impression he's someone who had spent all of his 27 years studying the business of baseball.
Friedman remembered that when Longoria signed his first professional contract in the summer of 2006, he did what all first-round picks do: going to the big league ballpark of the team that picked him before working out with the team for a day.
That day is an exciting moment for draftees, their first on-field exposure to their first set of professional colleagues. The pitchers will throw in the bullpen, and typically, they will overthrow their fastball, trying to impress. The hitters will get into the cage, knowing that all eyes of the major leaguers are focused on them, and they will try to muscle up on the ball and crush 800-foot home runs.
Not the right-handed-hitting Longoria.
"He took a very under-control batting practice," Friedman recalled. "He was hitting line drives to right field, moving the ball around. He's serving the ball to all fields."
In fact, he was so under control in batting practice that a coach walked over to Friedman and raised some concern. "Wow, this was our first-round pick?" the coach asked. "Does he have any power?"
Along with the defense, the maturity and the understanding of the responsibility that comes with being the face of a business.
• From ESPN Stats & Information, the most wins above replacement for a position player since 2008, Longoria's first season:
Albert Pujols: 35.4
Ryan Braun: 30.2
Chase Utley: 29.1
Evan Longoria: 28.5
Adrian Beltre: 28.0
• Sources say Andy Pettitte is close to finishing a new deal with the Yankees, which would be the second big domino for them to fall this offseason. Their priority has been to hold their pitching together, and they've been able to do that, re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and now (barring a total reversal) Pettitte.
• As Jeff Keppinger has gone through free agency, he has had two-year offers in the range of $7 million to $10 million. The interested teams: the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Rays. Keppinger recently got hurt in an accident at home.
• Teams are concerned about Dan Haren's hip condition -- not a problem with his back, which was an issue during the 2012 season -- and this is tempering interest in the veteran right-hander. He's incredibly respected and will get an opportunity to pitch, but whether he'll get a highly lucrative offer, in light of those concerns about his health, remains an open question.
• Some teams have looked at Stephen Drew in various capacities, but some evaluators who saw Drew in the last half of 2012 say his defense was still a work in progress, as he recovers from his devastating ankle injury of 2011.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. There is a perception among other teams that the Royals are looking to capitalize on the value of prospect Wil Myers right now -- to the point that questions are popping up about why the Royals want to trade him.
The reason could be as simple as this: Trading Myers gives the Royals their best chance at landing a good and relatively young pitcher, while at the same time allowing Kansas City to keep its developing group of young major league position players intact.
The Red Sox have discussed a possible deal with Kansas City involving Jon Lester. He is the perfect type of pitcher for the Royals to invest in: He's still in the first portion of his career, he's under contract and he has a chance to be pretty good. Plus he's left-handed.
2. Adam Kilgore examines the other side of the question of whether the Nationals should stand pat.
4. The role of a Cardinals official has been expanded.
7. Rob Deer has joined the Cubs' coaching staff.
8. The Blue Jays picked their coaching staff.
9. Jeff Keppinger broke his leg.
11. The Giants have bullpen options other than Brian Wilson, but they still want him back, and because he might take another season to get back to what he was before. And a deadline looms Friday, Henry Schulman writes.
• There is sad news about a coach in the Indians' farm system.
• A Cardinals prospect made the all-AFL team. So did a Brewers prospect.
• Aberdeen's team has a newly drawn logo.
And today will be better than yesterday.