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Rafael Devers and Evan Longoria: Buying and Selling the Latest Offseason News for Fantasy Baseball

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Even though the Winter Meetings are now behind us, there’s still plenty of offseason left when it comes to baseball news and rumors – especially with a number of the offseason’s top free agents still without a team. And that’s all without mentioning potential trades as there hasn’t been an overabundance of deals made so far. The reports and rumors of free agent interest and trade interest, combined with actual free agent signings and trades, will continue to have significant ramifications for fantasy managers ahead of drafts next spring.

The aim of this column is to provide you with the latest fantasy analysis on both rumors and reports, as well as official signings and trades, and how it pertains to redraft fantasy baseball leagues next spring. Moves, or rumors and reports, tabbed as “Buying” are obviously good moves or potentially good moves from a fantasy standpoint. Moves or potential moves and reported interest that are filed under “Selling?” Not so great.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the news with some news pertaining to a pair of third basemen.

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(Slightly) Selling For Fantasy Baseball

Rafael Devers Reportedly Signing An Extension With The Red Sox

Ok, so disclaimer, this isn’t a major deterrent for Devers’ 2023 fantasy upside and ceiling. He’s still going to be an elite fantasy option and he’s still going to be an elite hitter. Per NFBC, Devers is being drafted as the 18th overall player in mock drafts, with a 20.57 ADP.

He’s also the same player who is coming off a season where he finished in the 92nd percentile or better in xwOBA (92nd), xSLG (94th), xBA (95th), and hard-hit rate (96th) while logging an 11.5% barrel rate compared to just an 18.6% strikeout rate. From a fantasy-scoring stat standpoint, the infielder hit .295 with a .358 on-base percentage, 27 home runs, three stolen bases, 84 RBI, and 88 runs scored in 614 plate appearances.

He should still be very good next season, both in fantasy baseball and real-life baseball. The only reason that this portion of the column falls under the “selling” headline is that the third baseman now seems like a lock not to be traded after reportedly signing a long-term extension with the club.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted the following on Wednesday:

“BREAKING: Star third baseman Rafael Devers and the Boston Red Sox are finalizing an 11-year, $331 million contract, sources familiar with the agreement tell ESPN. The deal is not done. The physical process hasn’t started. But in the end, Devers is expected to remain in Boston.”

In other words, this reported extension eliminates the chance of him being dealt mid-season to an elite lineup where he could flourish even more so with RBI and run-scoring opportunities in the second half.

Of course, remaining in the Red Sox lineup isn’t entirely a terrible thing for Devers’ fantasy upside. He hit .323 with 33 extra-base hits in 283 plate appearances at Fenway Park in 2022 and is a lifetime .293 hitter with a .872 OPS in his career when playing in Boston. For reference, both of those numbers are .020 and .036 points higher than his respective career road batting average (.273) and road OPS (.836).

Still, Devers won’t be hitting in quite as strong of a lineup as he’s used to in Boston. Trevor Story having a bounce-back season will certainly help, as will a strong debut campaign from Masataka Yoshida. But Devers, who hit second for much of the season last year, will enter 2023 without the two players who mostly hit third and fourth behind him in Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez.

That, plus the now unlikely prospect of a midseason trade, limits his fantasy ceiling ever so slightly, but not so much that it should impact his ADP too much.

For Fantasy Baseball

Evan Longoria Signing With The Diamondbacks

Evan Longoria is reportedly staying in the National League West, only it won’t be with the San Francisco Giants. The free-agent third baseman joined the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Arizona might not be a significant upgrade from a fantasy environment standpoint, but there’s plenty of intrigue here for fantasy managers, particularly if Longoria can get a season’s worth of plate appearances with the Diamondbacks. If that’s the case, he could have plenty of sleeper potential later in drafts.

Limited at times by injury in the past two years, the veteran hasn’t logged more than 300 plate appearances in the Majors in either of the last two seasons. However, if you combine his respective plate appearances from the 2021 and 2022 campaigns, you get something close to a full season’s worth of plate appearances.

It’s an imperfect way of looking at Longoria’s production, to be sure. Still, it reveals plenty of fantasy potential for the veteran third baseman provided he can start consistently for the Diamondbacks.

In 589 combined plate appearances from 2021 through the end of the 2022 season, Longoria hit .252 with a .333 on-base percentage, 27 home runs, a stolen base, 88 RBI, and 76 runs scored. The veteran also made plenty of ideal, hard contact, adding a cumulative 12.9% barrel rate and a 50.7% hard-hit rate.

If you take his combined runs scored and RBI numbers and compare them against other third basemen in 2022, Longoria would’ve finished tied for fifth in RBI – with Devers, as it turns out – and in a tie for ninth for runs scored with Seattle Mariners slugger Eugenio Suarez.

Looking at the barrel and hard-hit rates, the newest Diamondback would’ve finished in the top 10 in both of those categories in 2022 if you combined his metrics from the past two seasons. The veteran’s barrel rate would’ve tied for fifth while his hard-hit rate would’ve finished in a tie for third among all qualified third basemen this past season.

Granted Arizona’s lineup in 2023 might be a bit less productive than the 2021 iteration of the Giants, a team that scored sixth in the league in runs. Still, provided he has a regular role in Arizona, Longoria should have no trouble providing fantasy managers with plenty of success if he can produce and continues to make quality contact at the same rates that he has in the past two years.

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