PHOENIX — It’s times like these when it’s not fun anymore for Evan Longoria.
The 36-year-old third baseman hit the injured list this week for the third time this season. His daily routine right now revolves around getting treatment, not playing baseball. The thought, then, must enter his brain: What does the future entail after this season, when the Giants must decide to pick up his club option or part ways?
The team can either pay Longoria $13 million to play for them next season, or buy him out for $5 million.
“If they decide to pick that up, I’ll come back and play for sure,” Longoria said. “When the time comes … I’ll either be back in the gym or I’ll be talking to my wife about what our plan is going forward.”
Weighing on Longoria’s mind:
1. First and foremost, he wants to play out the current six-year, $100 million contract he originally signed with Tampa Bay. “I’m a dedicated guy,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do that. Signing a long-term deal, when I signed it, I was like, I’m gonna play every year of that contract and play it as hard as I can.”
2. Because of that contract, Longoria has never experienced free agency. The prospect of exploring his value on the open market excites him, even entering his age-37 season. “If it gets to that point, it’ll be a fun decision to make, something I’m not going to try to think stressfully about,” he said. “I’ve worked this long to be able to have that fun and decide what I’m going to do.”
3. He has spent his tenure in San Francisco living an airplane ride away from his wife and three kids, now aged 9, 7 and 1. “Just a lot of FaceTime calls,” he said. “A lot of seeing them for two or three days here and there. Whatever the future holds is going to be somewhere we decide together and we can be together more.”
That three-syllable word — retirement — does occasionally leave Longoria’s lips. But most days, he tries to not let the thought enter his mind. It’s easy when he’s hitting home runs like the one last Thursday night at Dodger Stadium — his ninth of the season, giving him a respectable .791 OPS — and harder when he is pulling up limp running out a double play, like he did two days later.
“If I’m healthy, I still love playing the game,” Longoria said. “It’s just, things like this are frustrating. … I feel like I do everything to prepare myself and hydrate and sleep. The body just doesn’t want to work the way it used to. … It’s like this moment of weakness for me, where I’m like, I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Longoria’s value shows up beyond the field, where he’s also been one of the Giants’ top hitters and a stable glove at third base — when healthy. Stuck in a funk earlier this month, Longoria organized a spirit-rising home run derby during batting practice. His fading hair is currently styled into a mohawk as a reward for ending their season-long losing streak.
“I lean on his perspective all the time,” said manager Gabe Kapler.
On a recent rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento, Longoria shared some words of wisdom with up-and-coming third baseman David Villar, who is now filling in as Longoria’s injury replacement and could be the franchise’s future at the hot corner.
“He’s a great presence,” Villar said. “If there’s a play that I have any doubt in my mind about after I get back in the dugout, I ask him, ‘Hey, what did you see here? What did you think here?'”
For those reasons, it’s not outrageous to think the Giants might just pick up that option. Nobody on the team — not Brandon Belt, not Brandon Crawford — has more major-league service time. That veteran presence is valuable no matter Longoria’s health, and even into his late 30s, he has proven to be a positive asset when on the field.
Plus, the $13 million decision can instead be viewed as an $8 million choice: the difference between his potential salary and the cost to buy him out.
Regardless, time comes for everyone. Nobody is more cognizant of that than Longoria.
“The more I think about it, it’s something that’s inevitable for all of us, whether it’s retirement or you just don’t get a job anymore,” Longoria said. “So, yeah, whenever that happens, I’ll be ready. But I’m going to stay ready to play for as long as I can and try to finish out the life of the contract to the best of my ability.”