Giants: Evaluating Evan Longoria’s trade prospects
By Jeff Young
San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria had a nice bounce-back season in 2019 after a rough introduction to the National League in 2018.
Could the San Francisco Giants parlay Evan Longoria’s rebound campaign into an offseason trade?
The Giants acquired the long-time Tampa Bay Rays third baseman in December 2017 in exchange for Denard Span, Matt Krook, Stephen Woods, and Christian Arroyo.
This trade was criticized for a number of reasons, including the fact that Longoria was on the wrong side of 30 and that the Giants were assuming a great deal of risk by taking on his lucrative contract. In order to swing the deal, the Rays pitched in some cash.
Despite that included money, the 34-year-old still is still owed $44 million over the next three years. Due to the lucrative nature of that contract, the Giants could be motivated to move the veteran and the money he is due.
With that being said, there is not necessarily an obvious replacement within the organization. Longoria handled the majority of the time at third base in 2019, appearing in 119 games at the hot corner.
Most of the remaining action went to Pablo Sandoval (45 games), while Zach Green (5), Cristhian Adames (3), Corban Joseph (2), Donovan Solano (2), and Yangervis Solarte (2) also appeared at the position.
As a result, trading Longoria away would create a void at a position where they do not currently have much depth. So, the concept of a trade has some inherent problems.
However, Longoria does carry some value as he still possesses modest power and a premium glove at third base.
In 2019, he hit .254/.325/.437 with 20 home runs and 69 RBI in 508 plate appearances. That included a 102 OPS+, which represents production just a hair above average. Additionally, he walked at an 8.5 percent rate, which was nearly double the 4.3 percent mark he posted in 2018.
A dive below the surface shows a trend that we see with many hitters who don the orange and black: They hit significantly better away from Oracle Park.
Oracle Park remains one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball, so it is no surprise to see that Longoria is better away from Oracle.
Take a look at his home/road splits:
- Home: 255 PA, .231/.286/.372, 6 HR, 27 RBI
- Road: 253 PA, .279/.364/.507, 14 HR, 42 RBI
Clearly, Longoria is still trying to exorcise the Oracle Park demons that haunt many hitters.
On the defensive side, Longoria recorded 7 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and a 3.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in 2019. Despite his age, the defensive metrics continue to have a favorable opinion of his glove. Those numbers are consistent with the metrics he has generated throughout his career, so it does not look like Longoria has experienced significant regression with the glove yet.
So, who would even want a 34-year-old third baseman for the next three years?
There are several teams who will likely be in the market for help at third base, including the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Milwaukee Brewers.
Todd Frazier and Josh Donaldson were the primary third basemen for the Mets and Braves, respectively. Both are set to become free agents after providing good all-around value in 2019, especially in the case of Donaldson who was worth 6.1 WAR.
The Braves will have to determine how much money and how many years they will be willing to offer up to Donaldson. Given his 2019 performance, he is certainly worth the investment, but the number of years will be a deciding factor. Unlike Donaldson, the Mets may be indifferent to retaining Frazier.
The Phillies (.725 OPS, 24th in MLB) and Brewers (.681 OPS, 28th in MLB) both ranked among the worst teams in baseball in terms of production from the hot corner.
Maikel Franco is a candidate to be non-tendered by the Phillies, while Mike Moustakas can decline his end of a mutual option and Travis Shaw is also a non-tender candidate in Milwaukee. Both teams will be looking to contend in 2020 and could prioritize upgrading the position.
As was mentioned earlier, Longoria still has three years and $44 million left on his contract, but his contract carries an $11 million average annual value, which is the figure that MLB uses for the Collective Bargaining Tax (CBT). The back-loaded nature of his contract means his cap hit is smaller than his remaining average salary.
In other words, from a CBT standpoint, his contract is not as prohibitive as it looks on the surface, and there’s ample reason to believe his production would spike with a move away from Oracle Park.
Ultimately, Longoria showed that he had plenty left in the tank in 2019. This offseason might be the best chance the Giants have to try to unload his contract.
The question is whether the San Francisco Giants will be willing to create a void on the infield by trading away one of the few productive infield pieces from the 2019 team. It might be a bitter pill to swallow, but a trade might be best for everyone involved.