The 2023 season was a tale of two halves for Evan Longoria. The veteran third baseman was rocking a 129 wRC+ through the end of June, with 11 home runs in 42 games. His 56.8% hard-hit rate ranked fifth among all batters (min. 100 PA), while his .562 slugging percentage ranked fifth in the National League.
He was on pace for 1.4 fWAR, a tick above his final total from the previous year. At 37 years old, he was still a productive player in a part-time role.
Then, the calendar flipped to July. From July 1 through the end of the regular season, Longoria played 32 more games. He hit .173/.269/.198 (34 wRC+) with just two doubles and zero home runs. Over the final two months of the season, he didn’t record a single extra-base hit.
In 16 playoff games, things somehow got even worse. Longoria finally smacked a few extra-base hits, recording one double each in the NLDS, NLCS, and World Series. Even so, his overall numbers took a hit thanks to a 38.9% strikeout rate and a 5.6% walk rate. With a .456 OPS and 24 wRC+, he was the least productive hitter (min. 50 PA) in the 2023 postseason.
Overall, Longoria was essentially a neutral force this past season. He was just barely above replacement level, according to FanGraphs, finishing with 0.1 fWAR. Baseball Reference was a bit kinder, putting him at 0.5 bWAR, while Baseball Prospectus was a little harsher, putting him at a nice, round 0.0.
Entering his age-38 campaign and coming off such a dismal second-half performance, it’s safe to presume Longoria doesn’t have suitors lined up out the door. Still, given his wealth of experience, his capable glove at third base, and the bat he flashed early on in 2023, the three-time All-Star should be able to find a new home – as long as he keeps an open mind.
Last offseason, there were rumors that Longoria strongly preferred to sign with the Rays, Giants, or Diamondbacks. In other words, he wanted to return to one of his former teams or play near his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He got what he wanted last winter, but the D-backs no longer look like a great landing spot for Longo, nor do the Giants or Rays.
If he wants to prolong his career, here are some places he could wind up instead.
Evan Longoria’s Top Landing Spots
There is real potential for a major league deal here – if Longoria is willing to take it. The Athletics might not be anyone’s first choice (or second, or third, etc.), but it’s not like he’d be locking himself into a long-term deal. Plus, for what it’s worth, Longoria is California born and raised. Oakland isn’t that far from the L.A. area where he grew up.
The A’s added Abraham Toro this offseason, presumably to play the hot corner, but Toro is hardly an insurmountable obstacle. In fact, he and Longoria could share third base duties and play alongside one another, since Toro has such poor career splits against left-handed pitching.
Earlier this winter, I predicted the Tigers would sign Matt Chapman. It was a bold prediction, but the rationale was sound: Detroit doesn’t have a set third baseman.
If the Tigers aren’t going to make a splash and sign Chapman, they’ll probably just stick with the various young utility players on the roster, namely Matt Vierling, Zach McKinstry, Nick Maton, and Andy Ibáñez. That said, they have room for Longoria if they’re interested. This team could use a veteran presence and another righty bat.
After losing Brian Anderson and Josh Donaldson, the Brewers’ situation at third base looks even more bleak than it did last year. The in-house options are Andruw Monasterio and Owen Miller, two former prospects entering their late twenties with a combined career OPS of .648, and Tyler Black, a 23-year-old mid-range prospect with no big league experience and a mediocre glove.
Is Longoria necessarily a better option than either Monasterio or Miller? Maybe not, but he certainly could be. The chances are good enough that he’s worth a shot, especially since Monasterio and Miller both have minor league options remaining.
The Brewers don’t like spending when they don’t have to. Still, with a payroll $9 million below last year’s figure and $20 million below the 2022 budget (per Roster Resource), they can certainly afford to toss a million bucks in Longoria’s direction.
I can’t see more than a minor league deal materializing between these two sides, but an MiLB deal might be the best Longoria is going to get this winter.
Former Marlins GM Kim Ng traded for Jake Burger last summer to be the team’s full-time third baseman. However, Burger’s defensive skills are lacking, so manager Skip Schumaker would surely appreciate the opportunity to start him at DH now and then instead.
Miami has a few backup third base options on the roster, but none that couldn’t be forced out if Longoria has an impressive spring.
As for why Longoria would sign a minor league pact with the Marlins? Well, he liked playing in Florida for the Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays
I know, I already said the Rays weren’t a good fit. And they’re not!
A reunion between these two remains unlikely, given all the third base depth on Tampa Bay’s roster. Even so, I wouldn’t completely rule out a minor league deal. The veteran has suggested he’d love to come back, and if they could make it work, you have to presume the Rays would love to have him.
Longo is the best player in franchise history and a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. If nothing else, he would get a few more butts in the seats and sell some jerseys next season. The Rays have the roster flexibility to make it work if Longoria has a good spring.
Could Evan Longoria Retire?
By all accounts, Longoria is looking to play in 2024. Last winter, however, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggested that the former Ray and Giant was planning to retire after “one final season” in 2023.
Back in October, during the D-backs’ surprise postseason run, Nightengale reported that Longoria was still considering retirement but was “leaning towards playing again in 2024.”
With spring training on the horizon and the veteran third baseman still unsigned, the possibility of retirement is presumably on his mind.
Surely, Longoria would relish the opportunity to keep padding his Hall of Fame resume. He is 1.4 bWAR away from 60.0 for his career, 70 hits away from the 2,000-hit milestone, and seven home runs away from sole possession of 100th place on the all-time list.
Then again, he’s already made his money and left his mark, and his best days are behind him. There is a solid chance Evan Longoria has already played the final game of his excellent MLB career.