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Scott Cullen

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The San Francisco Giants made a bold move to fill a hole in their lineup acquiring a formerly great third baseman.

The Tampa Bay Rays do what they tend to do, move out expensive players for less expensive assets. Rinse and repeat, year after year.

Statistically Speaking looks at the Giants picking up Evan Longoria from Tampa Bay.

 

2017 STATS

 
PLAYER TEAM POS GP AB HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS fWAR
Evan Longoria TB 3B 156 613 20 86 6 .261 .313 .424 .737 2.5
Denard Span SF CF 129 497 12 43 12 .272 .329 .427 .756 1.2
Christian Arroyo SF INF 34 125 3 14 1 .192 .244 .304 .548 -0.5
 

 

2017 MINOR-LEAGUE STATS

 
PLAYER ORG. LEVEL POS GP IP W L SV ERA WHIP SO BB
Matt Krook SF A SP 25 91.1 4 9 0 5.12 1.54 105 66
Stephen Woods SF A SP 23 110 6 7 0 2.95 1.43 113 64
 

The Giants Get: 3B Evan Longoria and $14.5-million.

Longoria, 32, has been one of the most productive and durable third basemen in the game over the past decade, his 49.6 WAR since 2008 ranking just ahead of Adrian Beltre for tops at the position.

He’s also slugged at least 20 home runs in every season except for the 2012 season, the one year in his career in which a significant injury limited him to just 74 games. He’s missed a dozen games in the five years since, leading the majors with 798 games played.

In San Francisco, Longoria addresses an obvious need – Giants third basemen combined for a .568 OPS last season, far and away the worst in baseball at the position. He remains an above-average fielder, and as long as that is the case, it helps Longoria provide value

Longoria’s contract carries five more years and $81-million with a $13-million team option for 2023 that is countered by a $5-million buyout. It’s a significant investment by the Giants for a player heading towards his mid-thirties, particularly for one that had trouble handling fastballs last year; if that’s an indication of his bat slowing down, as opposed to a mere aberration when compared to his previous seasons, then Longoria could fade quickly.

Last season, Longoria was more aggressive at the plate, and made more contact, but it was weaker contact,

Ultimately, though, the Giants have a solid lineup, but it’s not exactly fearsome, so adding another legit bat to the middle of the order should help in the next few years. The gamble that the Giants are taking is that Longoria will be able to remain productive into the later years of his contract.

The Rays Get: CF Denard Span, INF Christian Arroyo, LHP Matt Krook, RHP Stephen Woods

Span is a 33-year-old outfielder who can run a bit, but is a marginal starter at this stage of his career. In general, he’d be a decent option as a fourth outfielder, but for a cost-conscious team like the Rays, he may be a tad pricey for that role. Even if he is, that’s a relatively small short-term cost in return for unloading Longoria’s deal.

Span comes with a $9-million price tag for 2018, and there is a $12-million mutual option for 2019 with a $4-million buyout.

Arroyo is a 22-year-old who was a top prospect in the Giants system and reached the majors last season in a utility role, but struggled at the plate. However, he has shown proficiency with the bat, hitting .300 with a .779 OPS in 1,629 minor-league plate appearances, including a .396 average and 1.025 OPS in 102 plate appearances at Triple-A last season. He could be the long-term answer at short stop for the Rays.

If he's not quite ready to start next season, Arroyo can fill a utility role for the Rays, and if he produces enough offensively, then they can worry about securing him a regular spot in the infield.

Krook is a 23-year-old who has struck out 10.0 batters per nine innings in 132 career minor-league innings, but he’s also walked an outrageous 6.9 per nine.

Woods, who was originally drafted by the Rays in 2013, before he went to the University at Albany, has a similar minor-league track record, with 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, but 5.3 walks per nine. Krook and Woods don’t have control that suggests they could be major-leaguers at all, let alone starters, but if they can figure out how to throw strikes, maybe there is some chance that one of them can stick in the bigs.

Verdict: The Giants are making the bolder play here, taking on the established and expensive player presumably as his skills are declining, but it’s not like they are going to have big regrets about the players that they sent to Tampa Bay in the deal. So, that’s a risk worth taking for the Giants. For the Rays, they are always looking for ways to manage their assets effectively in order to compete on a shoestring budget, and it’s not a bad time to get out from under the Longoria contract, particularly since the deal nets them a quality young prospect. The trouble is, getting out from a financial obligation only makes the team better if that money is invested in more talent and that isn't typically part of the cycle for the Rays.

Scott Cullen can be reached at scott.cullen@bellmedia.ca