Longoria brings veteran presence to D-backs

Three-time All-Star third baseman 'a natural fit' for club close to home

January 6th, 2023

PHOENIX -- When his contract with the Giants ended following the conclusion of the 2022 season, veteran third baseman had a list of three teams he wanted to play for in 2023: the Giants, D-backs or Rays.

After 15 big league seasons full of traveling, including the past three during which he didn't get to see his family nearly enough, Longoria wanted to play somewhere he would be able to see his wife and three children (ages 10, 8 and 1) more often.

Longoria owns homes in Arizona and Florida, so those clubs were at the top of the list. The Giants also made the cut due to his familiarity with them over five seasons.

On Thursday night, the D-backs made the signing of the 37-year-old Longoria official, announcing the one-year, $4 million deal that includes bonuses that could add another $1 million.

It was a win-win for both sides. Longoria gets to play close to home and the D-backs get the right-handed, veteran bat they were searching for this winter.

"I think he was a natural fit on our team given how he balances out some of our left-handed-hitting infielders," D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. "We’ve been talking about, not age but the experience of our team [and] adding a veteran presence onto the club. Somebody who has been around and done what he’s done and accomplished what he’s accomplished. He still hits the ball extremely hard and is still a good third baseman. All of those things were big net positives for us bringing him on."

Longoria lives less than 10 minutes away from the D-backs' Spring Training complex and about 25 minutes away from Chase Field, making the organization an ideal landing spot.

And while Longoria touted the benefits of proximity to his family, there was another reason the D-backs were attractive to him.

"I watched this team from across the diamond a lot last year," Longoria said, "and I really do believe that this team has a chance to make a run, has a chance to be special. There's a ton of young talent, the pitching staff I think is primed for a big year. One of the things that was a big factor for me coming into the offseason was, not only can I find a place that is a good fit, but also a place that's going to try and put a winning team out there and have a chance to be in the playoffs. I didn't really want to just go into the offseason looking for a paycheck or looking to just finish my career in some place where I knew it wasn't going to be competitive."

Longoria will be in somewhat of a platoon role at third base with the left-handed-hitting Josh Rojas, but he won't just play against left-handed pitching.

Instead, Hazen said, with Rojas also expected to see time at second base and designated hitter, Longoria will have more of an opportunity at third. That doesn't mean Longoria will get 500-600 plate appearances, but he will get a significant amount of at-bats when healthy.

Keeping Longoria healthy is part of the equation in not making him the everyday starter. Injuries limited the veteran to 81 games in 2021 and 89 last season. He was productive in the games he played slashing .252/.333/.466 (.799 OPS) with a 119 OPS+ and 27 home runs while playing slightly above-average defense with one Out Above Average from 2021-22.

"I think the plan here is just trying to figure out a schedule that we can get the most productivity out of me for the entirety of the season," Longoria said.

Even when Longoria isn't in the lineup, the D-backs believe he will help them win games by mentoring some of their younger players. It's a role that Longoria welcomes, citing all that he learned from Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd when he was a young player with the Rays.

"I still think there are areas to our team that we need to continue to improve in terms of winning and losing those close ballgames," Hazen said. "I think players like Evan contribute in major ways -- that aren’t always seen -- to those winning moments. Whether it’s helping a young player pick out a pitch they’re going to get or surviving a tough loss and making sure your team bounces back the next day, I think those are the biggest areas that we feel there could be an impact here off the field."