Evan Longoria’s Defense Might Be His Most Important Asset
By Hiren Patel
The San Francisco Giants traded for veteran 3B Evan Longoria primarily because of his bat, but his defense will be his biggest asset.
Even in a down year, in 2017, he would have led the San Francisco Giants in home runs, RBIs, and hits – making him a vital addition to a primarily left-hand lineup. However, he’s likely not going to rebound to his MVP form from earlier in his career, and the team’s brass shouldn’t expect him to improve much upon his .261/.313/.424 slash line last year. His defense, on the other hand, is still elite.
After going through a few down years from 2014-2016, his defense rebounded to the tune of a 1.3 dWAR and a 3.2 UZR, helping him win his third Gold Glove. An infield of Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Longoria, and Brandon Crawford would be brutal defensively, particularly when you add in Buster Posey‘s elite defense behind the plate.
With two inexperienced starters (likely some combination of Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, and Tyler Beede) being given an opportunity to start games this season, that top-tier infield defense will be key to helping them succeed.
Not to be forgotten are the pieces the Giants are sending back to Tampa Bay. From the defensive perspective of this article, we can forget about the two minor league pitchers.
We saw Christian Arroyo last season, and his defensive ability did seem to play throughout the infield, with him logging innings at 3B, SS, and 2B.
In just 35 games, the infielder flashed an above average glove, but his offense was much too inconsistent to play at the hot corner. That can definitely change, but I would be shocked if Arroyo nears Longoria’s defensive or offensive production at 3B. .
Whether we would take 6 years of Arroyo over 5 years of a significantly more expensive Longoria is still a valid debate, but getting rid of Denard Span‘s putrid outfield defense is certainly a boon for the team.
While the 33-year old OF had some nagging injuries, he was probably never going to provide positive value in 2018. He was one of the worst defensive outfielders in the league last year, posting a -2.4 dWAR, contributing to a -1.1 WAR.
Even if Steven Duggar ends up the main starting CF, he has all the tools necessary to be good defensively there, with 65-grade speed, 60-grade arm, and 55-grade fielding, per MLB.com’s 2017 Prospect Watch.
Not to mention the team will probably add a significant outfielder, using the cap space generated from trading Span’s eight-figure salary away.
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Jarrod Dyson, Carlos Gomez, Juan Lagares, and Kevin Pillar are just a few names that should fit in well at CF. While I’m not the biggest fan of Jay Bruce‘s fit in LF, the Giants could pursue him, John Jay, Curtis Grandson, or Randal Grichuk serve as targets for the outfield corner that should keep the team under the luxury tax cap.
While the outfield defense probably won’t be any better than average with Hunter Pence still patrolling RF and two unknowns at the other spots, it should nonetheless be improved.
Good defense helps the pitching and takes some pressure off the offense, which could benefit from numerous bounce back or healthy seasons from the team’s position players.
Defensively, this trade is addition by subtracting Span’s defense. Offensively, this trade is addition by Evan Longoria’s bat.
Next: Giants get Rutledge on Minors deal
All in all, the win now trade makes sense in 2018, as a lengthy rebuild will be necessary regardless with the aging and expensive core the team already has. Getting under the cap now and splurging next season on a superior class of free agents is probably the best way to maintain some level of competition.
However, if the team performs in 2018 how it did last year, it’s going to be tough for management to convince ownership to pump more money into this core. But that’s not going to happen… right?