SAN FRANCISCO — When the Giants sent Matt Duffy across the country at the 2016 trade deadline, the Rays looked poised to have a talented Long Beach State duo on the left side of their infield for years to come. Sixteen months later, half of that pairing is headed back to the West Coast.
Duffy remains in Tampa Bay, but Evan Longoria is now a Giant. He’ll be counted on to fill the hole left by Duffy’s original departure, one the Giants never came close to closing. Eduardo Nuñez was better suited as a utility man. Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones didn’t take advantage of auditions. Pablo Sandoval returned and hit .225.
Longoria is a short-term and long-term solution, a Gold Glove defender and power bat who looks poised to man Duffy’s old spot through the rest of this decade. Shortly after Wednesday’s deal, Duffy told NBC Sports Bay Area that he believes his former teammate — and fellow Long Beach product — “fits into the Giants mold" and is "extremely professional."
“He’s not going to take a day off unless the training staff hides his jersey and equipment,” Duffy said via text.
That description sounds like … Matt Duffy. It’s what the aging Giants need at third base, too. Longoria is reliable, having played at least 160 games in four of the last five seasons. The outlier was 2017, when Longoria played 156 games.
“He’s really a great athlete that’s taken care of himself,” vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said. “I think coming to our park, and our weather, with more days off in the baseball schedule, and getting him on grass — there are certain things we can do to maintain his consistency of play and the number of games per year he plays.”
Longoria also noted the difference in ballparks, saying he was glad to be now playing on grass instead of the turf in Tampa Bay. If he needs an added boost, he should get it from a fan base that once fully embraced Duffy. Asked what stood out about his new home, Longoria said he was very excited when he looked up the 2017 attendance numbers. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still were the envy of almost every other MLB team in terms of attendance.
“I looked at the attendance numbers and it was -- not shocking -- but pretty surprising to see even in a down year the amount of fans that came out,” Longoria said. “It’s going to be different. I’ve never showed up at a ballpark every day and had a sold-out crowd.”