Diamondbacks Announce Agreeing to Terms with Evan Longoria, Zach Davies

Evan Longoria running home (left) Zach Davies pitching (right)
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) Right: PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 02: Zach Davies #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers at Chase Field on September 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. All MLB teams are wearing gold ribbons on their jerseys and gold wristbands in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Diamondbacks Officially Agree to Terms with Evan Longoria, Zach Davies

The Arizona Diamondbacks officially announced coming to terms to sign free agent third baseman Evan Longoria and re-sign right-hander Zach Davies. Longoria comes to the Diamondbacks from the NL West-rival San Francisco Giants, where he has spent the previous five seasons, while Davies returns to the Diamondbacks after pitching for them in 2022.

Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria has had a successful career. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year, widely regarded as the best player in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays franchise, spent ten years with the Rays before signing with the Giants. In his 15-year career, he has slashed .265 (1883-for-7095)/.334/.472 with 422 doubles, 26 triples, 331 home runs, 1131 RBI, and 992 runs scored. This has given him a .344 wOBA and 165.4 wRAA.

Defensively, he has been among the top third basemen in the majors throughout his career, despite only winning three Gold Gloves. In Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average (Rtot) for third baseman, he is the active leader with 119. This means that, according to play-by-play data, by having Longoria play third instead of the average fielder in the league, his teams surrendered 119 fewer runs. In defensive runs saved, which factors in difficulty of the play, Longoria (95) is third among active third basemen behind Nolan Arenado (155) and Manny Machado (97).

His prime came with the Rays, with whom he slashed .270 (1471-for-5450)/.341/.483 with a .351 wOBA, 161.1 wRAA. With the Giants, he slashed .250 (412-for-1645)/.312/.438 with a .319 wOBA, 4.3 wRAA. Defensively, he had 103 Rtot with the Rays. He has fallen off defensively with the Giants, typical for fielders as they age, but he still has managed 16 and has only been negative in one season.

Longoria had a thumb injury late in the 2022 season but has fully recovered and has been cleared medically.

How Longoria Fits with the Diamondbacks

Both Longoria and general manager Mike Hazen met with reporters via Zoom on Friday, January 6 to discuss the signing. Hazen said Longoria, who bats right-handed, was someone they pursued all offseason, calling him a “natural fit” given the way he “balances out” the left-handed-hitting infielders on the team. The Diamondbacks, due to the lack of overall experience on the roster, needed a veteran presence, according to Hazen. He sees Longoria as someone who is still effective despite being in the twilight of his career. “Adding a veteran presence to the club, somebody that’s been around and done what he’s done, accomplished what he’s accomplished, still hits the ball extremely hard, and is still a good third baseman…were big net positives for us,” Hazen said.

Longoria will be in a part-time role, sharing third base with the left-handed-hitting Josh Rojas. Hazen could not give an exact breakdown of the two. “We still very much like Josh Rojas,” he said, “and Josh is going to play a lot.” The two will “complement each other” at third base. Rojas can also play second base. Given that flexibility — and given that the Diamondbacks are rotating people into the designated hitter spot instead of signing a full-time DH — playing time can be split several ways.

Clubhouse Leader

As far as how Longoria is in the clubhouse, everything the Diamondbacks heard “both from when we met with him and everything we heard externally…was all very positive,” Hazen said. He added that a veteran clubhouse presence is something the team needs more of, given how young and inexperienced they are overall. The coaches and manager Torey Lovullo have had to give information and lessons to the younger players that the front office feels comes best from teammates.

There were great dividends to how young the team got, Hazen explained, as “the energy and recovery rates are better.” But “there are areas to our team we need to continue to improve in terms of winning and losing close ballgames,” he added. “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 gonna get or surviving a tough loss the next day and making sure your team bounces back, those are the biggest areas we feel there can be an impact off the field. We still think he’s going to contribute quite a bit offensively and defensively to our team…. But the best teams are a mix of veterans and younger players.

Bringing Evan Longoria to Arizona

The negotiations were going on with Longoria from the beginning of the offseason, but the trade talks regarding the young outfielders “bogged it down,” according to Hazen. “When we were pursuing our trades with our outfielders, there were versions of trades where third baseman or infielders who could have been part of those deals would have made the signing not as needed.” Once the trade with the Toronto Blue Jays occurred (Daulton Varsho for Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the negotiations with Longoria and his agent “picked up.”

This was perfectly fine with Longoria, who said Arizona “made the most sense for me and for my family. We live seven or eight minutes from (the spring training site) and live 25 minutes from downtown Phoenix.” But that wasn’t the only factor, Longoria said. “I watched this team from across the diamond a lot last year. And I really do believe that this team has the chance to make a run and has a chance to be special. There’s a ton of young talent. The pitching staff is primed for a big year. So one of the things that was a big factor for me coming into the offseason was to not only 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.”

Longoria added that he didn’t want to “go into the offseason looking for a paycheck” or finish his career with a team he didn’t feel was going to be competitive. He truly believes the Diamondbacks have a chance to be competitive, and he is “looking forward to being a part of that.”

Zach Davies

Zach Davies, who graduated from Gilbert’s Mesquite High School in 2011, said before the last home game of 2022 that he would opt out of his contract but wanted to re-sign in Arizona. He liked pitching at home, liked the clubhouse atmosphere, liked the coaching staff, and liked the direction the team was heading. The reasoning was that he felt his 2022 salary of $1.5 million was fair based on his 2021 numbers with the Chicago Cubs but that he had pitched well enough in 2022 to earn a raise. And a raise is exactly what he got, to the tune of $5 million with $3 million in added incentives.

Improvement over 2021

Davies was correct about his numbers improving, as seen in the table below. His 2–5 record also included 20 no-decisions. The most common reason for the no-decision was not pitching the requisite five innings for a starter to get the win. This came due to strict pitch count limits, both to start the season and after he returned from his shoulder surgery. Despite all this, amongst starters with five starts or more, Davies had the third-best numbers on the team behind Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.

Zach Davies Season Comparison
2021 2022
ERA 5.78 4.09
ERA-Minus 139 100
WHIP 1.601 1.295
Avg Game Score 44.3 50.2
K% 17.1% 17.9%
BB% 11.2% 9.1%
K–BB% 5.8% 8.8%
Extra-Base Hit% 10.0% 7.5%
XBH per Hit % 41% 35%
HR% 3.7% 3.7%
Opponent BA .281 .241
Opponent OBP .367 .309
Opponent SLG .485 .412
Hard Hit % 43.4% 34.7%
Compiled from Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.

Bringing Zach Davies Back to the Diamondbacks

“He stabilized things for us in the rotation last year, especially from a consistency standpoint,” Hazen said. “And we love the guy. We feel like he’s a pro who fits in great in our clubhouse.” The front office felt “the whole time” like they needed another starting pitcher “even though we have a lot of kids coming.” The young pitchers will get opportunities to pitch, but the front office “felt like at least starting off the season (we should) create more depth and runway for all of them. Adding Zach — obviously a quality starting pitcher for us — seemed to make the most sense. We’re very fortunate to have signed him. He throws strikes, takes the ball, and has an idea how to work around situations. (Zach is) a smart pitcher. (Pitching coach Brent Strom) really likes him. So a lot of those things added up for us.”

In early December, Strom spoke as if he would not have Davies in the rotation in 2023. He said that prospect “takes away a very consistent performer. You always knew you were gonna be in the game. It may not be a spectacular outing, but he always kept us in the ball game. (He is) a strike thrower. In the year before I got here, one of the biggest problems we had was the ability to throw strikes. If we were gonna get beat this past year, it was because of a misplaced pitch or something like that. But we got away from the two walks every inning kind of mentality that was happening around here.”

Improving Competition

Hazen also said that having Davies back will “ratchet up the competition amongst all the pitchers.” Given the pitching talent in the upper levels of the farm system, Hazen likes this. “The best environment for young players to come up in…has some degree of standard of competition,” he explained.

As an example, he cited Tommy Henry, a mid-season call-up who had a few outstanding starts in a row before “hitting a bit of a wall. And we had the ability to go down and get somebody that could step in and outperform Tommy in those next couple of starts. Then Tommy had his opportunity to come back. And I envision — at least for this year — that that’s going to be the dynamic that exists. That’s a healthy dynamic. With most good teams, that dynamic exists.”

Looking Ahead

Hazen said that, from a position player standpoint, the front office likes where they are but is always looking to add more talent. As far as pitchers go, Hazen said that a six-man rotation “is on the table.” He also said the team would still like to get another reliever if possible, but they’re “working through mostly trade scenarios at this point.” In addition, he feels that the Diamondbacks would be a “decent destination” for non-roster invites to spring training, which begins in roughly four weeks.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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