Why SF Giants could bring back Evan Longoria after turning down the option

In their first big decision of the offseason on Thursday, the San Francisco Giants reportedly opted out of their club option on Evan Longoria. However, that doesn’t necessarily stop the veteran third baseman from returning in 2023.

Longoria informed the San Francisco Chronicle of the club’s decision; the Giants have yet to make an official announcement.

Longoria, 37, was one of the Giants’ best hitters last season but struggled to stay on the pitch during the most injury-riddled season of an otherwise enduring career. The Giants would have owed him $13 million had they chosen his option for next season; instead, they’re on the hook for a $5 million buyout — and could potentially renegotiate at a lower rate for next year.

While Longoria admitted he considered retiring as he battled injuries last season – four stints on the IL: recovering from off-season ligament surgery on a finger, a fractured thumb that put end to his season and left oblique and right hamstring strain between the two – he has firmly expressed his desire to play next year, if wanted. He’s been a productive player when healthy the past five seasons in San Francisco, lives in the Phoenix area and has strong ties to Tampa, where he spent the first 10 seasons of his career. He never knew free will.

Left with a leadership vacuum after Buster Posey left before last season, Longoria was a veteran who stepped into the clubhouse. He hosted a spirit-raising home run derby; he said he would shave his hair to a mohawk if they broke a season-long losing streak, and he did. Despite a season-ending thumb fracture – his fourth stint with IL – Longoria accompanied the team on their final road trip.

Manager Gabe Kapler, whose playing career overlapped Longoria’s for two seasons in Tampa Bay, enjoyed his presence during the series finale and said he “relyed on his perspective all the time.” . After the season, President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi said, “There’s definitely a role for Longo on our team in 2023 with how we manage our roster.”

Longoria has 519 at-bats over the past two seasons; he doesn’t profile himself as an everyday third baseman. But every once in a while he shows flashes of himself — think of that August game at Coors when he single-handedly wanted them for a win — and was productive when healthy. He’s reduced .252/.333/.466 in those 519 at-bats over the past two seasons (a 119 OPS+), and only two Giants with that many at-bats last season had higher OPS.

The Giants traded for Longoria in December 2017, sending Denard Span, Christian Arroyo, Matt Krook and Stephen Woods to Tampa Bay. Playing 477 games over five seasons with the Giants, Longoria batted .251 with 70 home runs (a .750 OPS). He’s amassed 6.9 wins over the replacement since the trade, according to Baseball-Reference, compared to 3.8 of the prospect package the Rays have received in return.

Invaluable, Longoria has also shown a willingness to guide the Giants’ next third baseman — never given in a dynamic between an outgoing veteran and the rising rookie coming in for his job.

Between David Villar, 25, who impressed on his debut last season, and the confident Casey Schmitt, 23, who could make his debut next season, the Giants are in an enviable position when it comes to the transition from power to hot corner.

In a part-time role, Longoria could serve as an ideal stopgap.

But it’s fair to wonder if there’s room on a 26-man roster when it already includes JD David and Wilmer Flores, two other right-handed hitting options at third base. Flores, who plays an equally important role in the club house, signed a two-year extension before the end of the season. Kapler also often mentioned Thairo Estrada, another right-handed hitter, as someone who could easily take the job, if needed.

If the Giants were to look outside the organization, of the top four shortstops making headlines in the infield free agent market, only Xander Bogaerts has played the third-highest tier of the greats (53 games, none since 2014). Brandon Drury, shipped from Cincinnati to San Diego at the trade deadline, is shaping up to be the best corner player on the market, while old friends Matt Duffy and Donovan Solano are also there.

About Richard Chandler

Check Also

Too much Twitter drama? Mastodon, clubhouse and others appear as options

Twitter has been a bit of a mess since billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk took …