Evan Longoria hopeful for Giants return after season-ending thumb injury


Longoria hopeful for Giants return after season-ending injury originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN DIEGO -- As soon as the 101 mph grounder hit Evan Longoria's thumb, he knew it was broken. He knew his season was over, and long before the Giants announced the right thumb fracture, Longoria had started canceling tee times that he had made when the team fell out of contention.

What Longoria doesn't know -- at least not yet -- is what comes next.

The latest injury ended his fifth year in San Francisco, but Longoria is holding out hope that there is a sixth. The Giants hold a $13 million option on Longoria for 2023 that comes with a $5 million buyout, and Longoria said Monday that he intends to keep playing. He has a short list in his mind, but there is a clear team at the top.

"I'm committed to coming back here if in fact it does happen," he said. "I'm a Giant until I'm not a Giant anymore. I don't have any desire to go anywhere else."

When Longoria missed opening day and all of April, there seemed to be a strong chance that he would ultimately retire after 15 big league seasons. But he came back to play well, posting an OPS+ of 114, putting him comfortably above league-average, while hitting 14 homers in 89 games.

He remains -- by far -- the Giants' best defensive option at third base, and in his five years in orange and black, he has taken on a crucial leadership role in the clubhouse. After Sunday's game, Longoria told manager Gabe Kapler that he would still like to make the trip to San Diego even though he knew he was Injured List-bound.

"I'm like, dude, you have to be in San Diego," Kapler said. "Part of that is just, everybody depends on Longo's leadership. Who he represents to this group is a real guiding light to us."

As he sat in the clubhouse at Petco Park on Monday, Longoria was refreshingly open about his future and the different paths his offseason might take. He has never been a free agent, and while he admitted part of the process would intrigue him, he's hopeful the Giants simply pick up his option.

"The reality of the market is that if I went to free agency I'm not going to get $13 million or even $8 (million), realistically, somewhere else," he said. "So I think that makes my decision a little bit easier on that front."

On the surface, $13 million sounds like a lot for a player who has not reached 90 games the past two seasons and turns 37 this week, but the Giants owe him $5 million either way, either as part of the deal or as a buyout. They must decide if they want to pay Longoria an additional $8 million to play next year, but there is a middle ground there. The Giants could approach Longoria sometime this month and try to find a number between $5 million and $13 million that satisfies all parties.

"I think that's a real possibility as well," Longoria said.

Longoria has three young children, including a daughter who is only one, but he said that will actually be a driving force in playing again, not in retiring. His family lives in the Phoenix area and he has basically not seen them during the season the past three years, but he and his wife, Jaime, have talked about moving the whole family to the Bay Area next season if the Giants pick up his option.

"Just the way that the last couple of years have gone, them not being here and not being able to be a real part of the season, I think she wants to have a full season where we can be in a house together and experience what may be a last year the right way and not have it so divided," he said.

That could lead Longoria to two other destinations if the Giants don't bring him back, including one in the NL West. He didn't want to take anything off the table, but did point out that a return to Tampa Bay or a season with the Arizona Diamondbacks would be appealing since he has homes in both areas. The Diamondbacks seem like a particularly good fit, as their lineup is heavily left-handed and Longoria could provide leadership for a young roster that started to make noise this season.

Longoria said any destination would have to check off one last box, too. At this point of his career, he wants to contend. And yes, he believes the Giants will in 2023.

"I don't see this organization and Farhan (Zaidi) as a 'sit and wait and see' organization," he said. "There's been too much success over recent years. I think he understands that the fan base wants to win and that's a good thing. I don't see him taking four or five years to rebuild completely from the bottom."

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Longoria came over five years ago from Tampa Bay in a deal that signaled the previous regime would not go into a rebuild. He has watched the Giants bottom out, win 107 games, and then disappoint again.

Longoria has suffered plenty of personal disappointment, as well, including this latest injury. This final IL stint will be his fourth of the season, but he's hopeful that he hasn't played his last game in orange and black.

"There was definitely an adjustment period coming from being somewhere (Tampa Bay) for so long," he said. "Obviously it takes time, but I'd say somewhere in the middle to end of that first year is where I started to feel like this is the place that I should be, and obviously the last four years have been great."

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