We have been saying for weeks that the Yankees need to find an upgrade at third base. Josh Donaldson was a good defensive player there, but his .682 OPS made him a liability with the bat. The Yankees shouldn’t start a player with a .308 OBP and a .374 slugging percentage in pursuit of a championship.
However, we haven’t really focused or discussed potential replacements for Donaldson should the Yankees succeed in their quest to trade him other than having DJ LeMahieu slide over there.
Evan Longoria is no longer a star and is 37, but could be an option for the Yanks in a part-time role. In fact, the team could pursue him in any case, should Donaldson stay or should he depart.
The San Francisco Giants recently declined a club option worth $13 million and decided to pay Longoria a $5 million buyout. He may not be a $13 million player, but he remains a productive bat and a passable defender at third, even if he is not an asset with the glove like he used to be.
The last we heard about Longoria was four days ago, in the middle of the Winter Meetings. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported that at least five teams were talking to Longoria’s camp. He has said that he prefers to play for a contender in order to have a chance at winning a ring, and the Yankees could give him that chance.
He won’t earn as much as Donaldson and has two straight seasons finishing with above-average offensive numbers. In 2021, he slashed a cool .261/.351/.482 with a .833 OPS and a 122 wRC+ after four middling seasons that painted a picture of a player heading toward the end. He hit 13 homers in 291 plate appearances, as his year was interrupted by injury.
This year, he was able to maintain a similar level of performance in limited time despite the Giants’ mediocrity. He hit .244/.315/.451 with 14 homers and 42 RBI in 298 plate appearances. His 115 wRC+ indicates, once again, he was comfortably above-average, even though it wasn’t in a full season’s worth of at-bats.
After his 2017-2020 mediocre years, he worked with Giants’ hitting coaches to increase his launch angle. In this FanGraphs article from last year, it becomes evident that he made a concerted effort to hit the ball harder and in the air more often, leading to the improved performance in the last two years.
In fact, in this chart, we can see how his wOBA tanked between 2017 and 2020, improved considerably in 2021 and decreased a bit this season, but was still much better than what he did in the four seasons prior to 2021.
If the Yankees go ahead and pursue Longoria, they have to know he won’t be close to his best version, the one who could win Gold Gloves and finish with a wRC+ in the 130 or 140 range year after year. However, he can be a passable defensive third baseman who could get 300 plate appearances or so with a wRC+ between 110 and 120, and that’s a good player to have on a part-time role.
There are no indications about where he might be headed, but it wouldn’t hurt the Yankees to take a look and see if there is a match. At his age, he almost seems like an improved version of Donaldson. The third baseman the Yankees have saw his bat evaporate in 2022, while Longoria can still hit when on the field. He could be an improve, even in a part-time capacity.