As the Mets try to fill gaping infield holes from a free agent class that is mediocre at best, the team is looking to the trade market to try to piece together an outside-the-box solution for a challenging offseason. Evan Longoria may be on the trading block, and if he is, the Mets will likely check in about what the Rays are looking for.
Longoria is not the player he was when he peaked in his mid-20s, when he was one of the best third basemen in the game, but he has shown the ability to stay healthy despite his age. Since 2013, he has played at least 156 games every season and has the most games played of anyone in baseball in that span. For a team constantly struggling to keep players on the field, his durability would bring enormous value.
Any acquiring team will be concerned about Longoria's skill level, though. After a resurgent 2016 campaign where he racked up 36 home runs and an .840 OPS, his best since 2013, he hit just league average in 2017, with a paltry .313 on base percentage that was the lowest of his career. The good news is that his strikeout rate was a very impressive 16 percent, well below league average, and his walk rate, while not at the elite level it once was, was on a par with recent years.
The major concern surrounding Longoria is going to be with his power. With the exception of last season's spike, he hasn't shown above average power since 2013 and he seems to have been completely unaffected by the league-wide homerun bonanza.
Any sign of a serious decline will be disconcerting to interested teams due to the five full years left on his contract, including $86 million in guaranteed salary. The Rays are almost certainly going to be expected to eat some salary if they want to move him and just how much they end up absorbing could have a big impact on the type of return he brings.
The above could potentially work in the Mets' favor, as their farm system has taken quite a hit recently and they have cleared a lot of payroll this year, but taking on that much risk is out of character for the front office and they would likely expect the Rays to chip in a chunk of cash regardless of what the trade package looks like. And even though the Rays are incentivized to move him this offseason, a straight salary dump of their franchise player might be a tough sell.
It's a long shot due to his contract and age, but if the Mets see any life left in Longoria's bat, it's a pursuit they should definitely look into. His average annual salary is still lower than what equally-flawed free agents will receive -- even if the number of years are risky, and he fills a significant hole in their infield for the medium-to-long term. He's still solid in the field and on the basepaths, so it really comes down to whether his 2017 performance at the plate was a bump in the road or the start of a serious decline.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring