Why Giants declined Evan Longoria's 2023 option, sent him to free agency

Giants decline Longoria's option, set stage for young infielders originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

LAS VEGAS — After 15 seasons and nearly 2,000 games in the big leagues, Evan Longoria will experience free agency for the first time.

The Giants on Thursday declined to pick up his $13 million contract option for 2023, opting instead to pay a $5 million buyout. There had been some talk from both sides that a compromise could be reached somewhere in the middle, but there was no new deal before Thursday’s 2 p.m. deadline.

Longoria intends to play one more season and said in early October that he wanted to do it in San Francisco. A few days later, Farhan Zaidi there was “certainly a role” for Longoria, but the tenor seemed to change in recent days. At the GM Meetings in Las Vegas, there was more uncertainty about the potential fit.

“We've got David Villar who played really well for us down the stretch, J.D. Davis who did a really nice job for us, Casey Schmitt is one of our top prospects and he's got a chance to be an everyday third baseman. That's not even counting Wilmer Flores, who can play over there,” Zaidi said Wednesday. “They're all right-handed bats and we're pretty deep there. That's part of it as well. For Evan it's going to be a question of what the right role is for him.”

Villar opened eyes with a huge September and Schmitt, perhaps the best defensive third baseman in the minors, should be an option at some point next season. If Longoria is not back, it’s unlikely the Giants add at third. Their preference is to get stronger up the middle.

In his fifth season in San Francisco, Longoria was limited to just 89 appearances because of four IL stints, including a fractured thumb that ended his season with three games remaining. When healthy, Longoria still was one of Gabe Kapler’s best options, especially against left-handed pitching.

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Longoria had a 114 OPS-plus and hit 14 homers, and against lefties, he had a .282/.333/.479 slash line with six homers in 117 at-bats. The former Gold Glove Award winner also was the best defensive third baseman on the roster.

Before the final series of the season, Longoria said he was “committed to coming back here.” "I'm a Giant until I'm not a Giant anymore,” he said. “I don't have any desire to go anywhere else."

Longoria did say he was curious about what free agency would be like and mentioned two obvious options. He has a home in Tampa Bay, where he started his career, and now lives in the Phoenix area with his wife and three young children. Longoria said those would be his top two non-Giants choices, and the rival Diamondbacks, who have a young and heavily left-handed roster, loom as a particularly good fit.

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