Rays' rookie Longoria signs nine-year contract

MIAMI, Florida Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:19pm EDT

Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria drops a ball for an error during the eighth inning of their game against the New York Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida April 14, 2008. REUTERS/Scott Audette

Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria drops a ball for an error during the eighth inning of their game against the New York Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida April 14, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Scott Audette

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MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) - Tampa Bay Rays rookie third baseman Evan Longoria has signed a nine-year contract with the American League team, the longest in franchise history, the club said on Friday.

The 22-year-old Longoria, a highly touted hitter and fielder who was promoted from Triple-A Durham last week, may earn more than $44 million over the life of the contract.

The contract was constructed to ensure Longoria a salary higher than the minimum in his early years, and a discount to the team in later years when Longoria could command more money via arbitration.

"This is obviously fairly unique," club vice president Andrew Friedman told Web site mlb.com. "But it was something both sides had interest in really exploring and talking about.

"The economics of the game and us being a low-revenue team, we have to think differently and take chances such as this to keep our nucleus in place as long as we can."

Salaries for the first six years of the agreement are guaranteed for $17.5 million, with the team holding a one-year option for 2014 and a two-year option for 2015 and 2016.

The option years could boost the figure to $44 million.

Longoria was called up to the major leagues on April 11 after the Rays placed third baseman Willy Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left hamstring.

(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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