Veteran additions mean Giants expect rebound season
Evan Longoria chuckled as he buttoned up his new No. 10 jersey — the Giants wouldn’t un-retire Bill Terry’s No. 3 for him, president Larry Baer laughed — and looked out at the sea of reporters watching and snapping photos:
“I’ve never done this before.”
Of the new things Longoria will experience as a Giant, buttoning a new jersey in front of a couple dozen people was perhaps the most banal.
Before Friday, San Francisco’s new third baseman was fully entrenched in a central-Florida swamp. For 10 years, Longoria donned Tampa Bay Ray blue and trotted out on the fake grass in front of a couple thousand at Tropicana Field.
Longoria churned out a Rookie of the Year campaign, three All-Star appearances, a couple seasons worthy of MVP votes, three Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger award. Longoria has been one of the best third basemen of this decade, but year-by-year the team around him could never get over the hump.
Being the face of the franchise comes with a load of responsibilities, Longoria noted. When things went wrong — as they do in Tampa Bay — he was the fall man to provide answers. Longoria was the player to temper ego clashes when newly-acquired veterans passed through Tropicana Field.
With the Giants, Longoria’s face-of-the-franchise responsibilities are all but stripped down to the fun stuff. He’ll be there for the youngsters, to provide some semblance of middle-of-the-order consistency that sorely lacked all 2017 in San Francisco. For the first time, he and Andrew McCutchen (another former franchise face) can leave the hard stuff in the hands Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. Said Longoria:
“It makes our job a lot easier. We won’t be the first ones thought about. They’ll be the ones asked the questions.”
He’ll also be joining a team in rare form: a 98-loss team trying to contend. Longoria hopped on the belief train, praising the core players the team invested in and acknowledging that they know how to win:
“The recent success of the organization sticks out and leads me to believe we’re not far off.
“We can only go up. … We’ve had some tough years. That’s a bad year.”
General manager Bobby Evans discussed what’s next for the Giants as they try to buffer out what they believe to be a contending team.
Evans has some $4 million with which to work and three big needs remaining: relief, rotation and center field.
Evans essentially said the focus is on finding a center fielder, possibly via trade. All but one of the team’s most valuable prospects — Heliot Ramos, Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw, to name a few — survived the trades for Longoria and McCutchen, which, in theory, has kept the door open for another big move.
Getting a veteran centerfielder can give prospect Steven Duggar a full, injury-free season in the minors and delegate Austin Slater, Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker to bench roles, where it seems Slater — who can play all three outfield spots — is the first up.
That means the rotation and bullpen will probably stand pat as the offseason ticks away. Evans said, as of now, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach are the guys expected to fill the fourth and fifth rotation spots.
Along with Reyes Moronta and Derek Law, Evans mentioned Julian Fernandez — who the Giants acquired in the Rule 5 draft — as names to fill the bullpen gaps. Fernandez will be someone to watch in Spring: he’s working through control issues, but has swing-and-miss potential and will need to be given a big league spot or offered back to the Rockies.
The takeaway from Friday’s press conference: Everything is going according to plan for the Giants, and they’re not done.