McCutchen, Longoria bring accolades, expectations to SF

For the first time since a trio of big additions were made this offseason, the pre-Spring Training 2018 San Francisco Giants roster was together Friday. And the names of those big additions, Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, were on just about everyone’s lips.

Buster Posey spoke highly of the value Longoria, a Gold Glove winner, and McCutchen, a former MVP will bring to the team:

“Those guys are baseball players and they want to win, and that’s what our goal is. … They bring a ton of talent and hopefully they contribute defensively. I know from their reputation in the past that they will.”

Longoria, traded to the Giants from Tampa Bay for Denard Span, Christian Arroyo, Matt Krook and Stephen Woods, joins a team with arguably one of the best infields in baseball. He fills third base which, in 2017, was something of a revolving door. No fewer than 10 players stepped in at the hot corner over the course of 162 games.

Giants Gold Glove middle infielders Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik embraced the veteran Longoria as both the final piece to the infield puzzle and a welcome addition to the lineup. Said Panik:

“It’s great having a guy that will play 155 — maybe 160 — games. … With all the accolades he has, to put him at third base every day and to put him right in the middle of our lineup, it’s a huge boost on both sides of the ball. I know for (head coach Bruce Bochy) it just gives him that extra bat in the lineup to put him behind Buster, in front of Buster, or whatever it is.”

Meanwhile, Bochy described his reaction to the acquisition of McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates — in exchange for prospects Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds, and $500,000 in international bonus pool space — as “euphoria”:

“We were all just so pumped about (getting Longoria) and then on top of that now we get Andrew, who’s one of the best all-around players in the game, I’m sure like everyone else in the club it just sent a sense of excitement. He’s going to impact our club not just on the field but in the clubhouse, and that’s a big part of it that we’re excited to have.”

In providing veteran depth in the outfield, McCutchen also fills a hole the Giants have long been trying to plug. In Pittsburgh, he spent most of his time in center field, and while it looks like the Giants are priming him for right, the dimensions of AT&T Park are such that his history as a career-center fielder might actually serve him and the Giants well. “Cutch” said:

“Watching Hunter Pence over the years playing out there, he seems to know what he’s doing so I’m going to be picking his brain a lot, especially balls off the wall and balls in foul territory. He’s gonna help me out a lot because I’ve hit balls to him over his head to where it’s almost as if he knew exactly what was gonna happen.”

McCutchen recalled an instance when he realized the kind of skill Pence had developed in mastering right field:

“I hit a ball off the bricks in right field — I’ll never forget it — easy double, and it hit off the wall and he caught it in the air. He threw it into second base and I got a single; I knew right then and there—he knows what he’s doing.”

Many veteran Giants know McCutchen and Longoria primarily by reputation, but Posey and McCutchen played in the Junior Olympics in Taiwan as 17-year-olds. While Posey claimed to not remember much from that experience, McCutchen seemed to have a stronger recollection:

“The one thing I remember is that all the Taiwanese natives really loved Buster Posey and I don’t know why. They’d be doing the roll call of the team and they’d say, “Buster Posey,” and everybody would go crazy in Taiwan. We’d get on buses and we’d be waiting to leave and fans were coming up, ‘Buster Posey? Buster Posey?’ and I’d be like, ‘He’s not on the bus.’”

Flummoxed by the Taiwanese response to Posey, McCutchen said he could never get an explanation out of the catcher either:

“I know he’s a very likable guy so you know I’ve always joked with him about that at times when we were playing against him. I’d say, ‘Do you ever know why they liked you so much?’ and he’d be like, ‘Honestly I just don’t know.’”

Giants fans know, though.