Keeping Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria on a rebuilding Giants roster could be beneficial
We have written about how the San Francisco Giants may want to trade Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria, and even theorized some trade opportunities for each. Though fans can agree neither fit on a rebuilding team, the reality is it will be difficult to find a trade partner due to their production and remaining salary on each contract.
Despite the reasons for trading Belt and Longoria, it would not be the “end of the world” if the Giants were unable to move either this season.
Belt recently turned 32 years old and remains still within his prime years. The first baseman’s contract runs through 2021 at $17.2 million owed per year, during which time the Giants will likely still be out of contention of a National League West title and still working on their rebuild. Though this is the typical argument for trading Belt, what has to be taken into account is who is behind him in the depth chart.
And the long-term answer to that is: nobody.
Buster Posey, Darin Ruff, and a few others can cover the position, but the Giants are without an heir apparent at first base that they can look to through the rest of the 2020s. The only two listed by FanGraphs are Logan Wyatt and Garrett Frechette.
Wyatt is 22 years old and just completed his first pro season in which he hit .278/.388/.377 in 183 plate appearances, making it as high as Low-A in 2019. Frechette is a 19-year-old fifth-round pick from the 2019 draft who played 39 games in the Arizona Fall League. Neither has enough pro experience to be ready for the MLB.
Keeping Belt through 2020, and possibly even beyond, gives the team extra time to find the right fit to be the team’s future first baseman.
Longoria is likely the more difficult of the two to trade. Owed almost $40 million with an option in 2023 that includes a $5 million buyout, the 34-year-old is likely entering the period of his career where his numbers will fall off.
Over his two seasons with the Giants, Longoria has hit .249/.303/.424 with 36 home runs. His numbers are solid, but he struggled to stay healthy during his short tenure in the orange and black, appearing in less than 130 games per season. This comes on the heels of five straight seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays played at least 156 games the 162 games scheduled per season.
This opens the door to the argument that Longoria needs rest more than anything.
Longoria has at least demonstrated than he has 20 HR power with the Giants if he could play a full season, even while playing most of his games at what is now Oracle Park. His hitting numbers have stayed relatively stable over these last seven years as well, so much so his 2020 ZiPS projected slash line is at .253/.307/.425.
So what if the best way to maximize the value of Longoria is not to play him every day, but be in a timeshare with someone?
Unlike their problem at first base, the Giants have an option in the pipeline at third base in Zach Green. The Giants can opt to give the 26-year-old some major league at-bats and see if he can earn the job at third base in the future. Meanwhile, Longoria can still play when need and be a stable hitter and a Gold Glove defensive option off the bench the days Greene starts. The argument can be made that such an idea would extend Longoria’s career, too.
By some miracle that the Giants are in the Wild Card hunt in 2020 or 2021 like they were in 2019, having Belt and Longoria would be by no means hindrances either. Belt’s continued demonstration of a great eye at the plate and Longoria’s consistent offense, a competitive Giants team would likely prefer using the two over rolling the dice with unproven prospects at their positions.
Not trading these two does mean the Giants will not receive any assets — prospects, money, international’s signing funds, etc. — just yet, or even ever in the event they cannot be traded and payout their contracts with the Giants. But what the two can provide while they remain with the team with their large contracts at least put fans and front office’s minds at ease and not make trading them as high of a priority as we may think.