How would Evan Longoria fit on the 2023 D-backs?
Basically, his role would be to provide some right-handed balance and thump for the team. The Arizona offense skewed very heavily left-handed this season. Their 3,842 PA from that side of the plate was #1 in the majors, and it wasn’t even close. The next most were the Pirates, 323 behind. The median number was over twelve hundred fewer. Indeed, the Diamondbacks had more left-handed PA this year, than any team since the 2016 Mariners, and were #1 during 2021 as well. Which would have been okay, if these D-backs had done particularly well. However, they didn’t, especially against left-handed pitchers: our LHB vs. LHP had an OPS of .601, with a line of .225/.281/.320, with just 9 HR in 617 PA.
Adding some right-handed power would help even things out, and in theory keep opposing managers from being able to manipulate the platoon advantage, especially late in games, by throwing left-handed relievers at our line-up. Oddly though, that doesn’t seem to have happened much this year. For the Diamondbacks had the platoon edge 71.3% of the time in 2022, far and away the highest percentage in baseball. In general, the team did well enough against left-handed starters: they went 23-26 there, a .469 win percentage in line with the overall number. The team struggled in general against LHP: an sOPS+ of 84, ranked 26th in the league.
But that was due to both right- (sOPS 87) and left-handers (sOPS+ 86) falling short in this department, and improving it is where Longoria could help. Over his career, he has an OPS 86 points higher agaisnt left-handed pitchers, and while his overall production has been lower in recent years, the 2022 split was similar: .812 vs. .731, or 81 points higher. Of the eleven D-backs (lefty, righty or switch) with 50+ AB against southpaws this season, Christian Walker was the only one with a higher OPS than that. Longoria would form one end of a platoon with left-hander Josh Rojas at third. He could also factor in to the picture at DH, where they had very much a committee (Ketel Marte led the team with only 38 games).
Would Longoria come to Arizona?
After five years in San Francisco, the Giants chose not to exercise their option for Longoria, choosing to go with young prospect David Villar instead [ironically, SF has a bit of a log-jam of right-handed hitters there!]. That would have cost them $13 million in 2023, but they opted for the $5 million buyout instead. While this move doesn’t entirely rule out a return for Longoria on a smaller contract, it would seem unlikely. According to Bob Nightengale, the only other teams he’d consider playing for, in what’s expected to be his final season (he turned 37 last month), are the Rays, who drafted him back in 2006, and the D-backs, since he had a home here.
Tampa used Yandy Diaz at third-base this year, who hit .298 with a 143 OPS+, and in his second year of arbitration is projected to earn a very reasonable $5.4 million. He’s also right-handed, so Longoria does not seem to be a fit there. Similarly, DH Harold Ramirez had a 119 OPS+ while earning league minimum and is under team control through the next three season. He’s a right-handed bat as well, so the Rays really do not appear to have any use for Longoria next season. If a) Nightengale is correct, and b) Longoria is serious about those three teams being the only ones of interest, it appears the actual list of contenders for him may begin and end with the Diamondbacks. Those are two non-zero “ifs” however.
What would it take?
That’s the big question. Realistically, he’s a 37-year-old who hasn’t seen even ninety games in a season since 2019, so there are legitimate questions about his stamina. We’re a long way removed from 2013-16, a period over which no-one played as often as Longoria. sitting out only six times in four years. His value is declining: with similar playing time in 2021 and 2022, he was worth 1.7 and 1.3 fWAR respectively; a rather sharper drop in bWAR, at 1.8 and 0.6. Though some of that might be recouped with decent health leading to a full campaign, and careful platooning, I’d say that we can’t realistically expect much more one win out of him. That’d be worth about $8 million on the open market.
Would that be the best way for the team to spend that kind of money? While third-base is often seen as a weak-spot, I was surprised to discover the position for Arizona ended up about middle of the pack in 2022. Second-base and short were more problematic. However, the problem with the problem (as it were) is that Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed are already under contract for 2023, so there’s your “solutions” for those spots. Third-base does offer some scope for potential improvement. Right now, it’s be Emmanuel Rivera sharing duties with Rojas. While it’s still very early, the Steamer projection on Fangraphs has him providing about equal production to the veteran, of about one WAR.
[Update] All the above was written before the trade yesterday that brought Kyle Lewis to Arizona. Does this affect the calculation? Possibly. He’s certainly a right-handed hitter with thump, although comes with a boat-load of question-marks, to the point that the D-backs certainly should not rely on him being an everyday player next year. They need to have a Plan B, or possibly a Plan B+. He also, going by comments on Lookout Landing, is close to being a pure DH these days, and obviously isn’t going to help at third-base. My instinct is it probably reduces the chance of a Longoria signing, but doesn’t move the needed much.
We’ll see what Hazen decides to do. There’s a case to be made that we’re better off spending this kind of money on a position player than a relief pitcher. We all saw what close to $11 million spent on the bullpen got us this year: 17 losses and a 4.99 ERA from Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy. If we’re going to spend $8 million next season, I’m a little gun-shy about giving it to any more “experienced” relief pitchers. But what do you reckon? There’s a poll below, and feel free to explain yourself in the comments.
Would you sign Evan Longoria to a 1 yr/$8 million deal?
This poll is closed
Yes, it’s as good a place to spend the money as anywhere.
No, we can make better use of it elsewhere