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The Evan Longoria Question

The veteran is nearing the end of his career. A club-option for next season means 2022 could be his last in a Giants uniform—but the way he’s been playing lately, he might be worth keeping around.

MLB: San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria swings watches his grand slam to left sail out of the park in Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Longoria started the season as a question mark for the San Francisco Giants. He started 2022 on the IL, missing 35 games dealing with a finicky finger, then returned to the IL twice in July missing a total of 27 games because of oblique and hamstring problems.

After perennial good health and fortunes during his Tampa Bay tenure, San Francisco has worn his body down, missing 217 days to injury since the 2018 season.

Longoria will be 37 in October, this kind of wear and tear is expected. Like cars passing the 150,000 miles mark on their odometer—original parts start to konk out, wear down, give in. Sometimes it happens at inopportune times and you find your 1999 Chevrolet Venture minivan overheated and inoperable after its serpentine belt with its tensioner and idler pulleys crapped out crossing the Sierra Pelona Ridge, and all you can do is coast in neutral in the far right lane of I-5 praying there’s a mechanic off the first exit in Castaic.

This happened to me. It will happen to all of us. (I’m talking about both cars and mortality here. This is deep.) Its been happening to Longoria for seasons now. The question mark is more likely a walking stick—he’s almost 37! He’s like the oldest thing ever!

2022 has been teased as possibly his last year as a Giant, or maybe even in baseball. The front office has a 13 million dollar club option that they can exercise for his 6th season if they want him around, or they can buy him out for 5 million and allow Longo to test the waters of free agency for the first time in his career or retire.

Interviewed by multiple Bay Area news outlets in the midst of his IL sojourn in July, weighing an early exit was certainly on Longo’s mind. It’s not fun being a baseball player that doesn’t get to play baseball. It’s especially not fun when you’re across the country from your wife and three small children.

Longoria is in a similar situation to Buster Posey was a year ago. He’s gotten a lot out of professional baseball after putting together an illustrious, accolade-laden career, and the body and mind have started to sync up and realize they’d rather play backyard wiffle ball with their kids than play in front of 30,000 strangers every night.

It makes a lot of sense. It might also not be his choice.

San Francisco has two quadruple-A 3rd basemen in Sacramento as we speak. Both Jason Vosler and David Villar have had more than a couple cups of coffee in the Majors.

Nearly half of Vosler’s 139 ABs in the Majors have come this season. He squeezed that sample size for all its worth, logging an .881 OPS while 8 of his 19 hits went for extra-bases. He also picked up appearances at every other infield position.

After lighting up the Pacific Coast League, David Villar reminded us that certain funds between Triple-A and MLB are non-transferable. He struck out a lot, didn’t hit much, but showed off an impressive eye for the strike zone. 13 walks inflated his OBP to .338.

Trade deadline pickup J.D. Davis, who won’t be a Free Agent until 2025, has plenty of experience at the left corner and has shown off impressive power in the past three weeks.

The club has a lot of holes to fill going into the 2023 season, but 3rd base might not be one of them. Farhan Zaidi might elect the 5 million dollar buyout, wish Longoria good luck, and have 3rd base be a revolving door of Davis, Vosler and Villar.

Around late-July, when Longoria found himself on the IL for the second time after being back only a week, this was the plan. I was on this train at the start of the season. I thought his shoulder problems after last season’s collision would slow down his swing and his age would keep him on the bench more than on the field.

I was halfway right, which is another way of saying I was halfway completely and totally wrong. It’s pretty clear Longoria’s bat has not slowed. When he’s been healthy and getting consistent at-bats, he’s produced hard contact, put the ball on a line or in the air, and been the middle-of-the-order right handed bat the Giants have needed. His August splits are just fantastic.

The impetus of this article was Sunday’s turn-back-the-clock game. It was 2009 again and it was pretty obvious that Longo was enjoying himself. The grand slam, yes. The bare-handed throw out, yes. The tag, yes. But even the routine plays he made elicited praise. An easy charge, scoop, hop and throw garnered a “man, that was smooth” from HoFer Jon Miller.

The Giants are a better team with Longoria around. If he finishes the year healthy and playing as he has been, I think it makes sense to offer him the club option in the offseason.

The main reason being he’s still capable of playing good baseball. We’ve all seen it. Who knows, maybe if he was afforded the year to say goodbye to the game, he might put together a send-off year for the ages like Posey did; or do what Albert Pujols is doing right now. (note: Albert Pujols is a Honda Civic by the way. 42 years of age is equivalent to 220,000 miles on the odometer.)

Even if he’s hurt next year, he’s still a valuable resource (albeit, an expensive one). Villar mentioned how much he appreciated Longoria’s willingness to answer his questions and talk while in the dugout. 13+ years of MLB experience is a choice stockpile of accrued wisdom that ranges from these are the best hibachi restaurants in Chicago to what pitch/location to look for if you’re ahead in the count against Dinelson Lamet.

Good teams talk in the dugout. Longo levels up that conversation.

If Longoria can finish the season healthy, I think Zaidi makes him an offer. He might refuse. More power to him if he does, but I expect if he has more games like Sunday’s he’ll stick around.