San Francisco Giants executives are obviously dedicated to fulfilling what they perceive is their #1 responsibility: to try to appear relevant to the fanbase for the upcoming season at AT&T Park.
But even after their disastrous 64-98 record last season, this is a team not interested in long-term planning or addressing their global needs. They see their main responsibility as maintaining the appearance of a winning organization, not actually building a winning organization.
What’s particularly insulting is that San Francisco’s front office feels they can easily manipulate their loyal fanbase to chew and swallow just about anything they dish up.
The Giants just completed a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, picking up ten-year veteran third baseman Evan Longoria in exchange for San Francisco’s only player in MLB’s Top 100 prospects, 22-year-old third baseman Christian Arroyo, and OF Denard Span.
Evan Longoria will turn 33 in 2018, and is coming off the worst offensive year of his career.
In 156 games he put up a .737 OPS (with a 100 OPS+), batting .261 in 677 plate appearances.
The positives on Longoria are his outstanding defense and the fact that his career .823 OPS is extremely good. Defensively, San Francisco’s infield now looks very solid with Brandon Belt at 1B, Joe Panik at 2B, Brandon Crawford at short, and Longoria at the hot corner.
But this is a typical Giants front office move.
Pick up a player on the downside of his career who had one good season [insert number here] years ago. Then hope he “gets back to that”.
(In the case of starter Jeff Samardzija, when the Giants signed him to a $90 million deal in 2016, he had never had an “outstanding” season in his eight-year career. That record still stands.)
This trade is a major long-term salary dump for the Rays, who, even though they pulled off a 80-82 3rd place finish last season in the highly competitive AL East, are determined to reconstruct their roster.
Tampa has a slew of promising young players in their highly rated farm system, including seven players on MLB’s top 100 list. (Eight now, including Arroyo.)
The Rays already have a history of pawning off players on the downside to the San Francisco Giants and getting young talent in return.
Listed as Tampa’s #11 team prospect is 20-year-old shortstop Lucius Fox. Fox was an international pick up whom the Giants drafted and paid $6 million, and then traded in 2015 to Tampa Bay along with 3B Matt Duffy for ineffective starter Matt Moore.
Christian Arroyo now goes to the team he rooted for growing up, and the Tampa Bay native will have a great chance to win the Rays third base job in Spring Training next year.
Also going to Tampa in the deal are two Giants pitching prospects that Fangraphs described as having “quality stuff”.
Denard Span ends his two seasons in San Francisco posting a .732 OPS (and a OPS+ of 105), with a .268 BA, and defense that featured a stunning lack of range and an increasingly weak arm.
There are a number of complex cash considerations in this deal. The reports are that Tampa will include $14.5 million as part of the trade, $9.5m of which is deferred from 2025-29. Basically, the Giants will end up owing Longoria $67 million from 2019 through 2022, plus a $5m club buyout in 2023 (minus some signing bonus money).
But the main concern here is that San Francisco is already awash with aging players on long-term deals. Longoria’s will be yet another onerous contract commitment to a player about to go through his mid-30s (Longoria turns 37 in 2022).
Absent any further salary dumps, the Giants now have several sources of revenue to dedicate to fixing their outfield, bullpen, and starting pitching issues. And to try and build up some depth on the 40-man roster to cover the predictable number of injuries every team experiences each season.
Broadly, San Francisco had about $180 million in existing contract obligations. Which left about $15 million to spend in front of the 2018 MLB luxury tax limit ($197m).
They also saved about $9 million in the Matt Moore to Texas deal, and several million (in 2018) in the Longoria trade. If that’s all relatively correct, San Francisco has about $27 million to spend on another outfielder and maybe one addition to the bullpen.
If all that gets done, it will certainly “appear” to make the chances for the Giants to finish at around .500 in 2018 a little brighter following their 2017 Breakdown by the Bay.