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Evan Longoria had the worst season of his career

It was the steep decline we all feared.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

STAT LINE 512 PA, .244/.281/.413, 16 HR, 54 RBI, 1.9 bWAR

In the Giants’ attempt to remake themselves following an embarrassing 2017, they snagged a pair of franchise icons — Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria — to go along with their own franchise icons, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. Three of the four wound up with staggeringly long stints on the DL due to damaged bones. Longoria suffered a broken hand thanks to the Marlins near the end of a 16-inning win on June 14th and missed about a month and a half. That injury might’ve defined his season, were it not for everything else.

He started the season struggling mightily. One of the first articles I asked dearly departed site creator Grant Brisbee to write up was on the subject of Evan Longoria’s “doneness”.

An 0-for-15 slump isn’t rare. It’s not like two triples in the same inning or even two triples in the same game. It’s like a triple. They happen often enough. Don’t freak out. We’re just paying attention more because it’s the start of the season, and this is all we’ve ever seen from Longoria in a Giants uniform. Tony Gwynn went 0-for-14 in this stretch, and he was still Tony Gwynn. I spent exactly one minute looking for that slump, and we’re talking about one of the greatest contact hitters who ever lived.

Does this mean that Longoria will have a good year? No! He might be terrible now.

It’s pretty easy to say that Yes, Evan Longoria is terrible now, but his teammates sort of skew the result. The Giants were unwatchably, historically awful last season. They could not hit. To the point that it doesn’t feel melodramatic to say that they probably don’t deserve an opportunity to try to hit major league pitching ever again. Still, a quick search of our editorial queue shows the following stories about good ol’ Evan Longoria:

“A Maikel Franco trade makes a lot more sense for the Giants than an Evan Longoria trade” (Dec 18 2017)

“Evan Longoria gives the Giants their best chance of winning in 2018” (Dec 21 2017)

“Evan Longoria can still be good, even if the Giants’ history with third basemen suggests otherwise” (March 26)

“Is it time to panic about Evan Longoria?” (April 2)

“Evan Longoria out indefinitely with broken left hand” (June 15)

“Evan Longoria has been impatient” (June 13)

“What should the Giants do with Evan Longoria?” (July 24)

“Evan Longoria has been mashing lately” (September 18)

That’s a bunch of doubt mixed with worst fears being confirmed and ending with a sprinkle of sample size optimism. Evan Longoria has been a quality major league bat for most of his career, but making a post-thirties move to a new league and to a park that’s absolutely brutal on offense and on a team going nowhere would kneecap even the best players and projections. While missing a month and a half due to injuries certainly didn’t help him, he was doomed from the start.

The Giants have had a terrible track record with 32-year old third baseman this century, and as optimistic as I was in his community projection, The Narrative was too much to overcome.

Role on the 2018 team

He was supposed to be the veteran leader who mashed baseballs. He did lead the team in home runs with 16 — which, if you had told the Giants at the time of the trade that they’d just acquired the player who would lead the team in home runs, they would’ve agreed with you — which might’ve been more had he not missed a month and a half of games, but he also got out of the gate really slow, with an 0-for-15 start that became quite a source of consternation in the early going.

His swing looked really rough in the early going and watching him drop to a knee to swing and miss on a pitch was pretty common in the first couple of weeks of the season. Still, he started to get the power stroke going and by the end of May he already had 10 home runs and a line of .262 / .291 / .490 in 220 plate appearances. Not fantastic, of course, but just barely useful. Then he hit .230/ .274 / .352 (in 262 plate appearances) the rest of the way and those first two months didn’t matter.

Despite 7 defensive runs saved, FanGraphs pegged his defense overall as just a bit below average (-2.6 Def) and eye test-wise, average feels about right. He looked fine at third base.

Role on the 2019 team

In 2012, Evan Longoria played in just 74 games (312 plate appearances) after tearing his hamstring. Coming into 2018, it represented his lowest home run and RBI totals (17 and 55) in his career. He also posted the highest OPS (.896) of his career, for obvious reasons (fewer games). Even with the extra games played in 2018, he could not best those counting stats from 2012 and he followed up his career-worst 99 OPS+ 2017 season with an even worse 89.

His best days are behind him, but that contract ($11.2 million AAV in each of the next 4 seasons, $60.168 million in actual dollars, with a $5 million buyout in 2023) means he’ll have very little industry value. He’s going to be the Giants’ starting third baseman until they cut him or if they get creative with a deal and pair him with a player who’s highly desired by another team to the point that they’re willing to take on the contract. We don’t know if such a player like that presently exists in the Giants’ system, but the trade deadline and next season are good times to reevaluate all that. As soon as they think they can move him, they will.

He’ll be a decent power source for a team that has no power, and if he’s a lineup supplement in the 6th or 7th spot of the order, then his deficiencies will be less striking.

Final Grade: C-

It’s hard to penalize a player being ravaged by time and making a league adjustment. It’s not his fault the Giants couldn’t see his clear decline when casting him in a lineup hero role. He did lead the team in home runs and you could see him put together stretches of decent at bats (he twice reached base eight games in a row, and also had a 10-game and 11-game on base streak). Not great, not awful, but definitely below average.