The 35-year-old has been a steady, yet unspectacular, contributor in three seasons with the SF Giants, but if you read between the lines of how the front office approached this past offseason, there may not be a lot of at-bats for the veteran third baseman.
What is Evan Longoria’s role for the SF Giants in 2021?
The SF Giants did not add a lot of position players this winter, but the ones they added were brought in to give them depth at third base. Jason Vosler and Tommy La Stella both have substantial pro experience at the hot corner and bat from the left side, meaning that either option would be a natural complement to the right-handed-hitting Longoria.
On top of this, San Francisco already has a couple of utility infielders in Donovan Solano and Wilmer Flores. While Longoria battled an oblique strain to start the 2020 season, both Solano and Flores saw time at third base.
This experiment was disastrous, but in fairness, the short lead up to the beginning of the season could have been a factor. With that being said, neither one should be more than just a spot starter at third base. With the craziness of a 162-game season, expect Solano and Flores to see at least a couple of games at third base.
So, that leaves Vosler and La Stella as the main competitors for playing time along with Longoria. When the Giants signed Vosler, they expected him to have a significant role in 2021 despite never playing at the major-league level. Given that his primary position is third base, it is fair to say that they envisioned him seeing plenty of time at third base.
Furthermore, when La Stella signed a three-year, $19 million deal, the front office predicted that he would reach a new career-high in plate appearances (current career-high is 360 PA). Compared to Vosler, La Stella has more versatility and should see time at both second base and third base.
However, the La Stella move was yet another transaction geared toward complementing Longoria with a platoon partner. So, what is Longoria’s role if they pursue a timeshare at third base?
The first point that needs to be mentioned is that Longoria has, by far, the best glove at third base on the team. So, while his offensive value has declined in recent years, he remains a premium glove at the hot corner.
That will help his case. But, offensively, the Giants are working to better manage his workload. The question is, how much are they going to cut back on his playing time? For a team that will be leaning heavily on platoon matchups, Longoria could see a sizable reduction in his playing time going forward.
The right side of any platoon matchup can be a difficult role as teams can go an entire series without facing a left-handed starter.
Though, this debate is more nuanced than trying to gain a platoon advantage. After all, Longoria is a stabilizing presence with the glove. Do the Giants take a hit on defense while trying to leverage a matchup advantage? That is the balancing act they will need to walk at third base this year.