The Baltimore Sun

The Tampa Bay Rays announced yesterday that they were signing their third baseman, Evan Longoria, to a six-year, $17.5 million contract that could be worth as much as $44 million over nine seasons. Longoria, considered one of the top prospects in baseball, has played just six games.

How do you suppose this makes Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis feel? The cheapest organization in baseball during the past 10 years - the Rays - decided they would rather commit to Longoria now, even though he barely has two series under his belt, while the Orioles are paying Markakis, already a budding star with two full seasons behind him, just $65,000 more than the league minimum.

Although it's extremely unlikely, Longoria could, at this point, flop and turn this into one of the most foolish moves in the history of baseball. Markakis already has proved that he's a legitimate standout at the major league level, a guy the team says it's building around. You can say the Orioles are smart and the Rays are foolish, but that won't mean anything to Markakis.

Don't think for a second that Longoria's deal went unnoticed in the Orioles' clubhouse.

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