St. Louis Cardinals: Evan Longoria in the cards for 2018 as plan-B

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 1: Evan Longoria /

Recent rumors have stated that the St. Louis Cardinals’ talks with the Tampa Bay Rays could expand to include Evan Longoria. What kind of player would the Cardinals be getting?

St. Louis Cardinals fans have probably heard that the team is interested in the Tampa Bay Rays’ closer, Alex Colome. Additionally, a recent article by Derrick Goold states that, “… a source confirmed those talks could shift or expand to include third baseman Evan Longoria.” While his name alone probably excites many fans, let’s take a deeper look into the Rays third baseman.

Contract: Longoria is due $81 million through 2022 with a $13 million team option for 2023. Excluding the team option year, $81 million for five years comes out to about $16M per year. He will be 32 during the 2018 season and 36 in 2022. In my opinion, this is an affordable contract for a quality player like Longoria.

Offense: For his career, he has a .270/.341/.483 triple slash line for a .823 OPS. That is pretty darn good. From 2008 to 2013, he had an OPS of at least .842 each year and his overall OPS during that span was .870. That was the fourth best mark among all MLB third basemen during that time frame. +

And, his 35.2 fWAR was the best in all of baseball during those years (not just among third basemen). That is an average of 5.9 fWAR per year. He was an elite player.

Since 2014 however, he has a .767 OPS. That is 19th among third basemen during that span. His 14.4 fWAR ranks 11th.

From 2008-2013, his average season was .275, 27 home runs, and 91 RBI. From 2014-2017, it was .264, 25 home runs, and 87 RBI. Not a huge difference right? So, how are his numbers so much worse? His OBP during 2008-2013 was .357. From 2014-2017, it dropped to .320. Long story short, his batting average is down from his early years, and he doesn’t get on base nearly as much anymore.

Defense: Longoria won a Gold Glove in 2017, his third award, and he deserved it. He led all American League third baseman in defensive runs saved. He was an elite defender from 2008-2013, had three bad years from 2014-2016 (totaling negative DRS numbers each year), and returned to the form from early in his career in 2017.

It’s hard to envision him sustaining that caliber of defense into his mid-thirties, but I think he can play average to above-average defense for a few more years.

Other: He has been incredibly durable over the past five seasons, playing in at least 156 games each year. He’s a good teammate, clubhouse guy, and just an all-around good human being. He is a guy that would fit right into the “Cardinal way.”

So, where does he fit? Obviously, if a trade were to be made, he would be penciled in as the St. Louis Cardinals’ everyday third baseman.

That would displace Jedd Gyorko – the probable everyday third baseman right now. Either Gyorko would be included in the trade, or he might move somewhere else in the infield to take the spot of a different infielder who was traded – Kolten Wong‘s spot maybe.

Hypothetically, an infield of Longoria, Paul DeJong, Gyorko, and Matt Carpenter would be pretty stout – at least on the offensive side. They would make four guys on the infield who can and should hit 20+ home runs each.

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My opinion: Although Longoria is not the elite player he once was, I still like the trade but only with two conditions: we also get Alex Colome in the deal or we do not trade away Gyorko. I think I could live with the loss of Gyorko if we get a legitimate closer and a quality third baseman in return.

I think it would be ideal to keep Gyorko and include Wong in the trade instead. It would be even better if Chris Archer somehow makes it into the deal.

Maybe playing in front of a packed stadium every day will rejuvenize Longoria and he’ll return to the form closer to his early playing days.

Even if he doesn’t return to those elite years, I still think Cardinals fans can expect 20-25 home runs and 70-80 RBI for a few more years. The back-end of his deal, when he is 35 and 36, will likely be disappointing, however, for the amount of money he is due in those years – $18.5 and $19.5 million respectively.

Next: Mock Winter Meetings

This trade scenario will likely only materialize if the St. Louis Cardinals fail to land Giancarlo Stanton. It would not be a bad back-up plan. Let’s hope Stanton makes up his mind soon, so the Cardinals can get moving on other deals.