The Giants hold a $13MM club option over third baseman Evan Longoria — the final possible season on a six-year, $100MM guaranteed deal that Longoria originally signed with the Rays. Because of a hefty $5MM buyout on the option, it’s actually “only” a net $8MM decision for the upcoming season. Still, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that the Giants are planning to opt for the buyout, which would make Longoria a free agent for the first time in his career.
That doesn’t necessarily close the books on Longoria’s time in San Francisco, however. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said last week there’s “absolutely” a place for Longoria on next year’s Giants, even as the team strives to get younger on the whole. Per the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea, Longoria is open to negotiating a return at a lesser rate. That meshes with Nightengale’s report, which indicates that Longoria’s preferences in free agency would be San Francisco, Tampa Bay or Arizona.
With the decision at a net $8MM, simply picking up Longoria’s option would be plenty defensible. Despite celebrating his 37th birthday just this past Friday, he remains a productive hitter, having enjoyed a renaissance with the bat over the past couple seasons. In 589 trips to the plate dating back to Opening Day 2021, Longoria has turned in a .252/.336/.466 batting line with 27 homers, 30 doubles, a 25.6% strikeout rate and a 10.5% walk rate. That said, his exit velocity, hard-hit rate, strikeout rate and walk rate in 2022 all took a step back from their 2021 levels, and this year’s overall offensive output was down a bit from last year.
As one would expect for a player moving into his late 30s, Longoria has also seen his defensive ratings begin to slip. Early in his career, he was one of baseball’s best defensive players at any position, and Longoria managed to sustain slightly above-average grades at the hot corner even in his mid-30s, posting positive Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average marks as recently as 2020. In 2022, he posted a -4 DRS mark and was a scratch defender, per both UZR and OAA.
Even with the slight downturn in 2022 production on both sides of the ball, Longoria remained productive with the bat. He could be particularly adept in a more limited role that shields him from top-tier righties but gives him plenty of time against left-handed pitching. Over the past two seasons, Longoria has tormented southpaws with a .295/.379/.536 batting line in 211 trips to the plate. His .229/.307/.429 line against same-handed pitchers is more pedestrian but still roughly league average output.
A more sheltered role could have the added benefit of limiting Longoria’s reps slightly in an effort to keep him healthy. Zaidi alluded to that last week, rhetorically asking “one of the questions for us with Longo, and it’s a question for him as well, at this point in his career, what’s the appropriate workload and what’s the appropriate role?” (link via Evan Webeck of the San Jose Mercury News). Longoria has spent a notable chunk of time on the injured list in each of the past two seasons, appearing in just over half the Giants games (170 of 324).
Assuming Longoria does head back to the open market, he’ll be one of the better players available in the third base class. Nolan Arenado would obviously be the prize of the position if he opted out of the final five years of his deal with St. Louis. Otherwise, the class is comprised of veterans who could be brought back on team options (i.e. Longoria, Justin Turner and Josh Harrison) and multi-positional types (like Brandon Drury and Jace Peterson).