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Giants trade for Evan Longoria, Rays lose a franchise icon

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Tampa Bay made one of the biggest moves of the offseason.

Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images

On Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants acquired three-time All-Star Evan Longoria in exchange for Denard Span, Christian Arroyo, Stephen Woods, and Matt Krook, according to a report from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Longoria will immediately take over the Giants' hot corner and slot into the middle of their power-depleted lineup.

The Rays lose their longest-tenured player, as well as their all-time wins above replacement and games played leader. They are gaining a cost-controlled youngster but at the same time losing the face of their franchise. Longoria has played every game of his career as a Ray. If he ages well enough, he will one day be joining the Hall of Fame in a Rays hat.

The trade is as much about the money moved in the deal as it is about the actual players that were moved. But first, let’s look at how this trade affects the 2018 Giants and beyond.

By far, the Giants had the worst third base unit in the league last year. A total of eight players manned the hot corner for the Giants in 2017, led by Eduardo Nunez, Kelby Tomlinson, and Pablo Sandoval. The eight combined for -1.8 fWAR.

Longoria should shore that up. He is coming off what is probably his worst full season of his career, but he was still worth 2.5 fWAR. He turned 32 in October, so he is still relatively young despite being around for seemingly forever.

His defense remains his strongest asset. He won his third Gold Glove award last season. For his career, he has been worth just a hair under 100 defensive runs above average, according to FanGraphs. He immediately turns the Giants' infield defense into one of the best, if not the best, in baseball.

Question marks emerge when it comes to his offense. Longoria was actually a below-average hitter last season, finishing with a 96 wRC+. His home run total fell from 36 in 2016 to just 20 in 2017. He also posted a career-worst on-base percentage of just .313.

San Francisco is betting on a recovery from Longoria, and there is reason to believe he can go back to his old self offensively. He actually posted the best strikeout rate of his career last season at just 16.1 percent, after posting a strikeout rate over 19 percent in the five seasons prior. His HR/FB rate was the lowest of his career, which would explain the dip in his long ball total.

With the Giants’ window closing, they are willing to bet on a bounce-back from Longoria. If he can return to the four-ish WAR player he was in 2015-2016, the Giants got exactly what they were looking for.

The Giants are now on the hook for the five years and $86 million remaining on Longoria's contract. Tampa Bay is sending cash to San Francisco to help on the money side, but it’s hard to imagine it being a significant amount. The Giants also unload Denard Span’s semi-albatross contract onto the Rays. Span is due $9 million in 2018. As most other big market teams are doing, the Giants are attempting to stay under the luxury tax threshold while still adding talent. This deal fills a hole while also shedding some salary.

The loss of their long-coveted prospect Christian Arroyo is going to sting the most. The 22-year-old infielder disappointed in his 2017 debut, hitting just .192 in 135 plate appearances, but he hit almost .400 in 102 plate appearances in AAA. He was no longer regarded as the Giants’ top prospect, but he was seen as a key piece of the team’s future since Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans drafted him in 2013.

Woods (22) and Krook (23), two lower-level pitchers, filled out the deal. Each of them is a bit of a wild card with control problems. They ranked 25th and 19th, respectively, in the already weak San Francisco farm system. The Rays would be grateful if either just made the big leagues one day.

This is the first deal in what will presumably be a busy offseason for the Giants. It also signals their complete disinterest in rebuilding after a 98-loss season. They're keeping the band together and going for it one or two more times at the expense of 2020 and beyond.

Whether San Francisco’s gamble on Longoria brings another even-year championship to the Bay Area remains to be seen. At the very least, the team has solidified one of the weakest points on its roster.

Dylan Svoboda is a writer for Beyond The Box Score and BP Milwaukee. You can follow him on Twitter at @svodylan.