Evan Longoria is dangerous. He is a piece of cheese in the world’s largest mousetrap, and for the purposes of this analogy, cheese smells like veteran reliability. You know Bobby Evans can’t pass that up, and he’s following the visible scent with his nose, like a cartoon character.
Consider that Longoria ...
- is 32 years old
- coming off a season in which he posted a career-worst OBP
- had a lower slugging percentage than Denard Span last year
- is owed $86 million for the next five years
None of those bullet points should excite the Giants. There is a strong, strong chance that Longoria isn’t performing at an acceptable level by the end of his contract. If he starts to decline immediately — and 32-year-old third baseman don’t have to stay productive forever -- the deal would mess up the 2018 season, the 2018-2019 offseason, and three offseasons after that one. The Giants will be trying to lock Madison Bumgarner up to a long-term deal, and they’ll be dealing with an aging core that’s making a ton of money.
Evan Longoria is how the Giants can save their offseason. Consider that he also ...
- hits at least 20 homers every year
- won a Gold Glove in 2017
- had at least 670 plate appearances in each of the last five seasons
- had a similar season in 2014, and he responded well, so it doesn’t have to be age-related decline
- has been worth at least three wins in each of his 10 seasons in the majors
- is still pretty danged good
This makes sense, then:
Longoria, I would guess, is a part of their dream offseason, specifically because they have a chance to ditch a bad contract. If the Giants sign Todd Frazier for, say, four years and $50 million, they would escape the fifth year of Longoria’s expensive deal, and they would pay far less money annually.
At the same time, though, that would be the offseason. Maybe they would get an additional reliever, or maybe they pick up Jarrod Dyson on the cheap, but signing Frazier would suck up most of their available money.
If the Giants can include Denard Span’s contract to offset some of Longoria’s, not only would that make Longoria’s deal more like a five-year, $71 million salary, which is more reasonable, but it would only increase the payroll by $2 million this year. The Giants aren’t going over the competitive-balance tax this year, so this deal would leave them with about $19 million to spend in free agency. Enough to sign an outfielder. Possibly two.
The only question is if the Rays would consider it. I’d guess that Longoria’s relatively disappointing season has them a little panicky about the remaining five years on his deal, and they’re looking more to get rid of the contract than a huge bounty of prospects. Considering his age and iffy offensive line last year, the Rays would probably have to include money to any team that trades for him. It’s hard to see another team absorbing that $86 million just to avoid trading prospects.
So I’m guessing the idea of Span in a deal isn’t that outlandish. While the Rays would rather pay $15 million of Longoria’s contract, spread out over the life of the deal, they’re probably going to pay something to whichever team acquires him. If the Giants send over some of their best prospects, they could probably be convinced to pay that money up front in the form of Span’s contract.
But you might have identified the rub, there. Why would the Giants trade some of their best prospects for a player whose best years are almost certainly behind him? I would think that Heliot Ramos, just about the only prospect with star potential in the organization, would be off limits. And with the Matt Moore trade, the Giants are going to be extra cautious when it comes to trading Tyler Beede. It would be tricky to work out a deal, and I’m not sure if it would be worth it.
This comes down to the Rays wanting to be rid of the contract and another team not offering something better than the Giants. According to Marc Topkin, here are some of the other teams interested in Longoria:
Cardinals, Giants, Mets and Yankees.
The Yankees are in the same boat as the Giants, trying to get under the luxury line, so they would want to foist Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract back on the Rays. The Mets are still buried under a crumbling pyramid scheme, so it’s hard to see how they would be comfortable absorbing that entire deal. There would have to be cash coming back. And while the Cardinals could probably afford Longoria, they’re likely focused on Manny Machado for now, as they should be.
My guess is that the Giants have a chance. As long as their competition isn’t interested in the full Longoria contract, they’ll have a chance. The only question is if another team will offer good prospects if the Rays agree to eat more money. The Giants can’t play that game.
While I’m pretty sure that trading prospects for Longoria would be a mistake, I’m almost expecting it at this point. This would be one of the only ways they could improve the team with a known quantity and still have money to spend. I can’t get over Longoria’s declining numbers and advancing age, but in a weird way, his big contract would allow the Giants more flexibility this offseason?
Welcome to the 2017-2018 offseason. It’s a weird one.