It is good to be Evan Longoria. He is 27 years old and knows that he will make millions of dollars a season until the year 2023. That has to be a pretty darned good feeling. Not only that, he plays for a team that has been competitive and in the the thick of things for every season he has been in the majors. Then again, there might be a correlation between those two facts in the last sentence. Evan Longoria might be the most indispensable player in baseball.
Longoria missed 88 games last season. Only three of them were rest days. All the 85 others were due to injury. While there is always some coincidence is such a statistic, the Tampa Bay Rays were 47-27 in the games he played and 43-45 in games he did not play. Those numbers are fairly stark--a .635 winning percentage with Longoria, .488 without him.
The average fan would probably not realize that since his first season in 2008, Evan Longoria has been the third most valuable player in baseball. The list goes like this: Pujols (34.4 fWAR), Braun (29.8 fWAR) and then Longoria (29.3 fWAR). Now consider that Pujols has played 768 games in that time. Braun has played 770 and Longoria has played 637. That's right, he has played 123 less games than Braun and 121 games less than Pujols and yet is right on their tails for the most valuable player since 2008.
If you break that down in wins per games played, Evan Longoria comes in at .046, Pujols at .044 and Braun at 0.38. There is something to be said, of course, for being able to stay healthy and Pujols and Braun have been able to stay healthier. But game for game, the only other player since 2008 that has been worth more per game is Utley at .047 wins per games played. Utley is probably on the other side of his great career. Longoria is just getting started.
The casual fan might think that Evan Longoria's great value that has been shown here today would be from his bat. But that is not the case. Longoria's wOBA and OPS are both 24th in baseball since 2008. Longoria has also been phenomenal in the field.
Since 2008, both Baseball-reference.com and Fangraphs have agreed on Evan Longoria's value in the field. Fangraphs ranks his defense as saving 54.5 runs since he began his career in 2008. B-R has him at 55. According to Fangraphs, that is the fifth highest in baseball during those five seasons. Only Gardner, Guttierrez, Beltre and Utley are ahead of him.
It is that combination of batting (137 OPS+ for his career) and fielding that makes Longoria so important to his team. The Rays will have just as good a shot at the American League East as long as Evan Longoria can stay in the lineup. Because when he is in there, he just might be the most indispensable and important player there is.