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2023 Diamondbacks Reviews: #22 Evan Longoria

Veteran presence basically veteran presenced

Texas Rangers v. Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Overview

  • Rating: 5.33
  • 2023 stats: 74 G, 211 AB, .223/.295/.422, 93 OPS+
  • Date of birth: October 7, 1985
  • 2023 earnings: $4,000,000 base salary, $1MM in incentives for number of days active (via Spotrac)
  • 2024 status: free agent.

Voting breakdown

Longoria’s evaluation from fans was pretty unanimous.

2023 review

When Evan Longoria signed for the Diamondbacks just as the team was preparing to celebrate New Year’s, there were plenty of mixed reactions about the move. Longoria had been linked to the Diamondbacks for months by that point, ever since his contract with San Francisco expired and he made it clear that he wanted to play one more season, but would only play for one of three teams; The Rays, the Giants, or the Diamondbacks. The Rays, with their young team, World Series aspirations, payroll issues, and Isaac Paredes already entrenched at third base had no reason to seek a reunion with their former franchise player. The Giants made no attempt to retain Longoria as his contract ran down. In point of fact, the Giants paid Longoria $5MM to go away, rather than to return for 2023. As such, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Evan Longoria would be a Diamondback within days after the dust settled on the postseason. But then, it didn’t happen.

Instead of a quick deal to bring Longoria into the fold, the Diamondbacks picked up Yonny Hernandez and traded for Kyle Lewis. Then, just before the Christmas holiday, the Diamondbacks made a blockbuster trade, one that sent the team’s most promising young member of the MLB roster to Toronto in exchange for Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. With these various additions, along with the shifting expenses in the bullpen, it seemed that all the bluster about Longoria heading to the desert for one final season would come to naught. But, as the adage goes, “You can’t predict baseball.” Despite the moves which brought in both a veteran and a right-handed bat, the Diamondbacks went out and gave Longoria $4MM to join them just as the calendar was flipping to 2023. The medicals were completed and the move was made official in the first week of the new year.

Longoria’s arrival spelled a new division of playing time for the likes of Josh Rojas and Emmanuel Rivera, the duo who had previously been pencilled in as the team’s third base tandem. At age 37, and with a long history of various injuries, including a season-ending thumb fracture, there were a number of concerns about what Longoria could or would bring to the Diamondbacks. The one thing that no one seems to disagree on was - this was a guy who was all about his makeup. While plenty of us questioned if Longoria had another season in him or not, no one looked at this deal as one that could rub off on the team in the wrong way. Longoria’s two decades of consummate professionalism preceded his arrival in Phoenix and he became the latest entrant in the team’s long history of bringing in a “veteran presence” (™).

It’s fair to say that the 2023 version of Evan Longoria was more or less both everything the team could have hoped for and much of what was feared. Longoria brought his professionalism and his work ethic. He even brought his ageing bat. But, Father Time is undefeated. The ageing bat fell to slightly below league average for only the fourth time in 16 seasons, though one of those was the COVID season of 2020. His third base defense was strong, but not stellar. Gone were the cat-like reflexes that marked his early years manning the hot corner. Instead, he simply made the plays that could be made, showing solid but unremarkable defense. Given the revolving door of sub-par gloves the team had been dealing with at third for the previous several years, this by itself was somewhat comforting.

To his credit, Longoria was acutely aware of what his role in Arizona was all about. And though it was a role that was new to him, he embraced it and could hardly have performed much better than he did.

Longoria’s regular season was marked as much by how little one heard of him as anything else. The man came to work and did his job. He had his ups and downs, but never strayed far from being entirely average. However, when the Diamondbacks entered the final stretch of the season and were still in the hunt for a playoff berth, Longoria seemed to once again find his old self. With the season seemingly on the line in every game, Longoria brought the hustle and he brought swagger. In no game was this more apparent than when the Diamondbacks faced off against the Cubs for a battle of wild card hopefuls that went to 13 innings. The game was nearing four and a half hours in length. Longoria spent the first 12 innings on the bench, watching as his team tried to keep postseason hopes alive, but not able to contribute.

Then, with the benches spent and some players showing the signs of fatigue, Longoria was called upon as a pinch-hitter, which resulted in a walk. He then advanced to second on a single. Then came the big play. The game ended on a Gabriel Moreno walk-off to right that scored an alert and ready Longoria from second base. Knowing the game situation and Moreno’s tendencies, Longoria helped himself to a massive secondary lead and then a great jump before motoring home and flying in with a head-first slide ahead of a strong Seiya Suzuki throw and that also included a hand swim around catcher Yan Gomes’ attempted tag. The play sent Arizona home winners and put their stamp on the series. With the way the season ended against the Houston Astros, it is not difficult to point at that one play as one of the key moments of the regular season for the entire team.

Longoria’s winning drive and instincts weren’t done yet. In the playoffs, he came up even bigger. In yet another massive turning point, Longoria’s Gold Glove defense of old flashed brilliantly when he saved Arizona’s playoff upset of the Milwaukee Brewers with an amazing leaping catch that led to a double play, preserving a very tenuous one-run lead. An inning later, Longoria turned a busted infield play into a heads-up effort to nab Christian Yelich at second base when Yelich overran the bag on a high infield bouncer. While Longoria’s bat did not contribute much in the first three rounds of the playoffs, his heads-up play-making more than made up for a lack of thunder in the bat. Then, in the World Series, Longoria found his bat as well. Unfortunately, it was not enough, as the Rangers went on to take the series in five games.

I think, we have to take in mind that Evan Longoria wasn’t just on the 2023 team because of his supposed offensive help against left-handed pitching and defensive stability at 3B. The team definitely looked for veteran presence on the roster with all the young prospects coming up and it seems that he surely did his part in glueing the roster together, although it is hardly impossible to evaluate this from the armchair.

“My purpose on this team was to be a leader more than I had ever been asked to before. I had never really gone into a season where the conversation at the beginning of the season centered about me being one of the guys in the clubhouse that would be looked upon as a leader. That role for me has been more rewarding in some ways than if I had gone out there and had my best statistical year” - Evan Longoria in an interview with The Athletic in October 2023 (sorry, not sure here, got the quote from Makakilo - hat tip)

This is a nice interview that gives an impression of the calmness and probably sincerity and reality of that “veteran presence” teams are looking for from time to time.

2024 outlook

The close of the season has almost certainly brought the close of Longoria’s playing career. With the Diamondbacks looking to return to the Fall Classic, the team has gone out to find upgrades at numerous positions, including third base. This resulted in the Diamondbacks trading for Eugenio Suarez. While it was always a longshot that Longoria would be brought back for a second stint in the desert, the addition of Suarez sealed his fate. Longoria was a bit below average in 2023 in terms of wRC+: 92, but what probably hurt his stock a lot was the abysmal performance he had in the second half of the season. A second year of Longoria in the desert was always more of a utopia than a possibility, but in wake of such a bad ending to the season, the decision to pursue other opportunities for 3B, like the Suarez trade, was made a lot easier.

Reports of Longoria retiring in 2024 surfaced already before the regular season was over. In interviews during the season Longoria mentioned that he considered retiring before the 2023 season and narrowed the possible teams that would keep him from that plan to just 3. That surely doesn’t put him in a great position to command a guaranteed contract somewhere else than Phoenix, St. Petersburg or San Francisco and even less after the huge slump he had in the second half of the season.

It remains to be seen if there is a team out there that wishes to offer Longoria a guaranteed contract with similar objectives the Diamondbacks had laid out for him. And if such a team comes forward, the second question is whether Longoria is interested in joining it. A prediction: Evan Longoria will retire when Spring Training arrives.