The Giants’ front office said during its end-of-season press conference the team would focus on improving at third base, center field and the bullpen. On Wednesday, they got their third baseman.
The Giants acquired Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays, immediately improving both the lineup and the team’s already sterling infield defense. The Rays received Denard Span, infield prospect Christian Arroyo and minor league pitchers Matt Krook and Stephen Woods for the team’s all-time leader in wins above replacement. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Brian Sabean said in a press release the team is “thrilled” to bring in Longoria:
“This move fills an important need for our club and completes one of our off-season goals. Evan has been one of the best third basemen in the game over the last decade.
While Longoria’s 2017 was one of his worst in the majors, it still would have been one of the best on the Giants. Longoria hit 20 home runs, more than any Giants player has hit since 2015. He also racked up 11 defensive runs saved en route to his third Gold Glove. General Manager Bobby Evans highlighted Longoria’s two-way skills in the team’s press release:
“Evan gives us a Gold Glove-caliber player at third-base and also provides us with a middle of the order presence in the lineup. His durability and leadership will strengthen our club moving forward.”
Longoria comes with baggage, of course. He turned 32 in October and even all-star-caliber players don’t always play deep into their thirties. Longoria also adds to future payrolls given that he’s signed through 2022. The Giants’ payroll commitments in 2019 and 2020 will eclipse $124 million, according to Cot’s. That money is spread across seven players either currently in their thirties or about to enter them. That’s without factoring in a hypothetical contract extension for Madison Bumgarner in 2020.
Perhaps as important as getting a major league third baseman for the Giants was shedding Span’s contract. Itis well-documented that Span was the worst center fielder in baseball in 2017 by defensive runs saved (DRS). The team planned to move Span to an outfield corner but the Longoria deal nullifies that plan. The Giants will likely make due with some combination of Austin Slater, Hunter Pence and eventually, Chris Shaw on the corners barring a major signing, like JD Martinez.
The real prize for the Rays is Arroyo, the Giants’ No. 4 prospect, according to Baseball America. Arroyo looked over-matched in his short stint in San Francisco but showed flashes of being the consistent line drive threat he’s projected to be. The Florida native dealt with hand injuries for much of the season’s second half and had surgery in early December to place a pin in his fractured left hand. He should be ready for Opening Day 2018.
While the Giants’ future payroll commitments are ominous, Longoria makes the Giants better for 2018 at least. It’s still likely the team will make another move or two before players report to Spring Training in February and Sabean confirmed as much:
“Moving forward, we will continue to work on additional opportunities to improve the club in 2018.”