With Josh Donaldson gone, the Atlanta Braves are in need of a third baseman. The San Francisco Giants have Evan Longoria and are willing to deal him.
How you might ask does an AL Central team signing a former MVP slugger impact a rebuilding team from the NL West?
The answer lies stems from the situation that Donaldson’s former team is now facing.
After an injury-plagued 2018 season where he dealt with shoulder and calf issues, Donaldson signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves in an effort to rebuild his free-agent value.
The 33-year-old did just that, returning in full force to hit .259/.379/.521 for a 127 OPS+ with 37 home runs and 94 RBI in a 6.1 WAR season.
Replacing that level of production at this point in the offseason will not be easy.
With Donaldson no longer an option, the Braves are now without an established starting option at third base.
Rookie Austin Riley burst onto the scene last year with .329/.369/.696 line that included nine home runs and 26 RBI in his first 20 games.
However, he hit just .185/.244/.379 with 81 strikeouts in 213 plate appearances the rest of the way. He missed most of August with partially torn LCL and upon returning failed to earn a spot on Atlanta’s NLDS roster.
Johan Camargo started 105 games at third base for the Braves in 2018, before moving into a utility role last year following the addition of Donaldson. He looks like the leading in-house candidate to take over at the hot corner, but he struggled to a 67 OPS+ in 248 plate appearances last year.
Giants cast-off Yangervis Solarte is the only other viable third base option in the organization. He was signed to a minor league deal earlier this offseason.
So what does all of this add up to for the San Francisco Giants?
A trade opportunity.
The Giants have their own 34-year-old power-hitting third baseman in Evan Longoria who does not fit the mold for a rebuilding team. He could, however, fill the void in the Atlanta lineup now that Donaldson is gone.
A trade between the two teams is not out of the question, especially since negotiating a deal just months ago at the trade deadline when the Mark Melancon was sent to Atlanta for bullpen arm Dan Winkler and High-A pitching prospect Tristan Beck.
In almost the same situation, with a veteran Giants player on a massive contract who fits the needs of the Braves, the two could hammer out a similar trade.
Consider the following trade proposal:
However, this trade would likely not be feasible without the Giants sending cash to the Braves.
Compared to Melancon, who was owed the remainder of a $14 million salary in 2019 and a matching $14 million salary in 2020 when Atlanta took on the entirety of his contract over the summer, Longoria is owed far more money and for a longer period of time.
Entering the 2020 season, Longoria is still owed $49 million through the end of the 2022 season, including a $5 million buyout on a $13 million club option for 2023. That total does not include the $9 million that the Tampa Bay Rays are still on the hook for during that time.
That’s a lot of money for a third baseman on the tail-end of his career. So the package going to Atlanta would have to include a sizable chunk of cash.
Left-hander A.J. Minter was supposed to be an anchor in the Atlanta bullpen last year after a strong showing in 2018 when we had 15 saves with 3.23 ERA. Instead, the 26-year-old scuffled through 2019, finishing with a 7.06 ERA in 36 appearances at the major league level.
That Giants have shown a willingness to take a chance on guys who struggled this past season but enjoyed success in the past with the offseason signings of Drew Smyly, Kevin Gausman and Tyson Ross. Minter would be a similar role of the dice, and if he does rebound, he would be under team control through the 2024 season.
That said, Camargo would be the key in this deal for the Giants.
While he struggled in 2019, he is one season removed from posting a .272/.349/.457 line with 27 doubles and 19 home runs in a 3.7 WAR season.
Farhan Zaidi has shown an affinity for position-flexible players time and again, and Camargo played everywhere but catcher and center field in 2019.
The aging Longoria might not have the same raw power as Donaldson, but he’s still a power threat, evidenced by his 102 OPS+ and 20 home runs last season. He would also benefit greatly from no longer playing half his games at Oracle Park, as his home/road splits last year illustrated:
- Home: 255 PA, .231/.286/.372, 6 HR, 27 RBI
- Road: 253 PA, .279/.364/.507, 14 HR, 42 RBI
Since Camargo and Minter are more productive players for Atlanta than Winkler and Beck were in the Melancon deal, the Giants would likely need to sweeten the pot further to get a deal done.
Aramis Garcia is a nice piece for any team as an offensive-minded backup catcher if he can return to the form he showed in 2018. He could compete with veteran Tyler Flowers and 23-year-old prospect Alex Jackson for the backup catcher job behind free-agent signing Travis d’Arnaud.
These two teams have an opportunity to once again help each other out, this time with a deal involving Longoria. This is just one idea on how a trade might look.