A coworker asked me yesterday what I thought about his newest friend, Evan Longoria. He didn’t leave my rant with a smile on his face.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants traded away Christian Arroyo, Denard Span’s contract and his -27 Defensive Runs Saved from a year ago and two relief prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Evan Longoria to fill their need for a third baseman. Without looking too deeply at the deal, the Giants added a three-time All Star to their lineup while also giving them one of the best infield defenses in baseball.
If you’re looking for optimism about this trade, it’s probably best you stop reading here.
The complaint that most baseball people have about the Giants as they’re currently constructed is that they have an aging roster (even the baby-faced Buster Posey is heading into his age 31 season) that is signed to large, lucrative deals. Adding Longoria, 32, and his five years and most of the remaining $86 million left on his contract is more of the same from a team that desperately needs to add some youth.
San Francisco has one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and with deals such as this, the high-level talent in the minors keeps dwindling. Sure, the club has received huge boosts from players that weren’t heralded before their debuts in the past, but that hasn’t happened in the last few years so it’s hard to view that as more than the exception to the rule.
Heading into 2018, the team’s top five paid players (Posey, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt) will be taking home nearly $100 million combined and in 2019 that payroll number will sit at $126 million between their top seven grossers. Keep in mind that the luxury tax begins at $197 million next season and $206 million the following year, leaving little wiggle room if the team, whose seven most expensive players will be 31 or older, ya know, stinks.
This would be a great time to off-set some of those expenses by bringing up younger, cheaper options that the team has been grooming to lead the way to the next set of rings. But there are no such players (or at least not enough of them to make a huge difference).
The Giants have taken a huge swing and a huge risk in adding Evan Longoria, who is no sure thing. Sure, he’s a right-handed bat with some pop and plays third base, two areas of need, but that contract at the cost of acquisition along with the payments that will be going into his bank account regularly don’t make this a home run by any means.
2017 was a down season for Longoria, and there is hope that he’ll be able to rebound from that down year. He smacked 20 homers last season which would have been the high mark on the Giants, but his OBP sat at just .313 and according to FanGraphs, his wRC+ was four percent below league average, the worst of his big league career.
The A’s over in Oakland are hoping for a bounce back year with their newest addition, Stephen Piscotty, too. The difference between the two is that Piscotty, 26, was dealing with injuries last season and family health issues. The Pleasanton native will be closer to home, which should give him a peace of mind and should also help him on the baseball field. Longoria could potentially be heading into his decline given his age.
The mantra for the Giants this offseason seems to be, “yeah, but if…”. The Giants lost 98 games in 2017, yeah but if Madison Bumgarner didn’t get hurt…Brandon Crawford and others had down season, yeah but if they return to form…This trade for Longoria is going to hurt the team in the long term and potentially not help them in the short-term…yeah, but if.
There aren’t a ton of certainties surrounding the Giants heading into 2018. A lot of the optimism that comes from the fans revolves around down years from their big ticket players (sans Posey who was his usual terrific self). Even with Longoria, and potentially Jay Bruce, the chances of the Giants winning the NL West are slim. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the class of that division, and even if they have a down year (they’ve survived without Clayton Kershaw in the past so don’t count on it), then San Francisco still has to also leapfrog the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
So what the Giants have done with this trade and any other potential moves they make – their system is lacking in talent to land a big-time player and they seemingly don’t have enough room on the payroll to eat money, so the big splashes are likely done – they are at best hoping for one of two tickets to the Wild Card game, a one-game playoff where they’d have to burn their best pitcher in order to advance. Sure, they have season ticket holders to appease, but at some point this formula is going to explode in their faces and it’s not going to be pretty.
If there is a time for the Giants to try moving some of their veterans in order to build up their farm system via trade like the White Sox, A’s, Cubs, Astros, Braves and any other rebuilding team has done in recent years, that time could be coming shortly, because if they wait too long, the contracts that the front office has been signing their core to for all of these years will outweigh the benefits of adding the player at all. Those contracts are already going to hurt any potential return anyway, unless the Giants eat large parts of the contracts they’ve doled out.
So if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not a huge fan of this trade for the Giants in the long term. If it’s going to work out for them, and by work out I mean with another title, then it’s going to have to be in the next two years, because it’ll be impossible to keep up the current trend of spending and having a weak farm system for much longer.
Featured image: 2017 Topps Now OS84