The official announcement yesterday that the Diamondbacks had signed Evan Longoria, was followed by a press conference this morning, in which GM Mike Hazen and the player fielded questions from the media. Here’s what they had to say about the deal, how it came about and, for Hazen, what remains to be done this winter.
- The D-backs had pursued Evan Longoria all off-season, because Longoria was a “natural fit” for the team, adding a “veteran presence” (take a drink!), still hits the ball hard, still plays good third-base. “We feel good about getting him.”
- In terms of a role, we talked with Evan, given where he’s moving into his career, a full-time role isn’t the best way to maximize his contributions. We don’t know what the limit will be. “We still very much like Josh Rojas”, giving us opportunities to utilize him, Longoria, Ketel Marte maybe Pavin Smith in the DH spot.
- The thumb injury which ended his season has been cleared medically, and the team expect a clean bill of health going into spring training next month.
- From a clubhouse perspective, both from when we met with him, and hearing externally, all of that was very positive. The D-backs felt like the growth of the young team is going to be the 2023 identity, and the coaches/Torey have had to do a lot of that, when often the best application of it comes from team-mates. The youth has benefits, such as energy and recovery rates, but players like Evan can help contribute in ways that aren’t often seen, such as helping get over a tough loss.
- No input from Madison Bumgarner: we don’t go and ask the players about what we’re going to do strategically.
- The trade market bogged negotiations down. There were versions of trades involving third-base and/or infielders, which would have left this signing not so needed. It kicked up after the trade with Toronto. There probably won’t be any more significant trades, bringing in any everyday players. The market for prospect-based trades seems limited at this point.
- “We’ve built out quite a bit of depth, I feel pretty good about where we are.” The major needs have been addressed, but “We’ll see where the market takes us from here.” Most of the team have options, which helps give the team flexibility. However, there remains more work to be done in regard to the bullpen.
- Managing Longoria to keep him healthy and productive is going to be a key issue, and something they will actively manage, beginning in spring trainng.
- Hazen feels the team has raised the floor for the 2023 season. But raising the ceiling is something which is going to come from improvements by the young players, as well as Ketel Marte getting back to form. If that group improves, that will determine how high the ceiling can go.
- “Super excited” to be in one of the three places he hoped to land (the others being Tampa or back in San Francisco). Arizona “made the most sense” - he and his family live only 7-8 minutes from Talking Stick. But that wasn’t the only factor: “I really do believe this team has a chance to make a run,” and he wanted to be on a team which had a chance to be in the playoffs, rather than just looking for a paycheck.
- He thinks the $4 billion free-agent market is good for the players, a “huge step forward, and a well-deserved one.” and goes to show how the game continues to grow. It’s well-deserved and shows how baseball is going in the right direction. Longoria feels teams may be realizing they need a mix of youth and veteran players.
- He has been hitting for the last week, but that’s normal. His thumb injury was just a crack which had basically healed three weeks into the off-season.
- With regard to his role, he talked to Torey Lovullo and Hazen at length before signing, and they all seem to be on the same page with regard to his role. It’ll begin as a platoon at third-base with Josh Rojas, but his versatility means the lineup will change. The idea is just to be able to help the team win as much as possible. Longoria has not been asked so far to help Rojas with his defense, but Josh “doesn’t seem like a player that will lack motivation.”
- Early in his career, the two guys who influenced him were Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd. “I was young and inexperienced at the professional baseball level,” and those two “taught me how to be a pro - not just on the field, but the whole lifestyle.” He has tried to pass that on to younger players as he has gone through his career, help them stay out of trouble and stay focused. “The veteran presence (drink!) in the clubhouse is invaluable.”
- The COVID situation has meant spending more time away from the family, and were definitely difficult: “I basically lived on my own for a year and a half”. It would have taken “a pretty significant offer” to deter him from being able to live and work, close to his family and three kids (ages 10, 8 and 1).
- He hopes the role here will let him be as healthy and productive as possible, figuring out a schedule which will get the most productivity out of him for the full year. Having the DH will add extra possibilities.
- His numbers here have been very good. He likes hitting in domes, both here or in Tampa. He didn’t take batting practice often in San Francisco, because it was cold and offered no real positives for him. But in Tampa, he took batting practice every day, and he’ll likely do the same thing here in Arizona.
- His offensive numbers the past couple of years have been improved, but he personally has tended to be old-school and look simply at things like batting average. It’s hard for him to tell whether he has had a good season or not. He credits the scouts and coaches in San Francisco for their help, and just the work that gets done in the cage.