Evan Longoria is back with the Giants, as the team announced that the veteran third baseman has been activated off of the 60-day injured list. The Giants also placed righty Jay Jackson on the COVID-related injured list and optioned Thairo Estrada to Triple-A, while calling up left-hander Sammy Long from Triple-A to start tonight’s game.
Longoria suffered a sprained shoulder in early June, which halted a major comeback year for the 35-year-old. After posting a below-average 94 wRC+ from 2017-2020, Longoria exploded for a 140 wRC+, nine home runs, and a .280/.376/.516 slash line over his first 186 plate appearances of the 2021 season. Small sample size notwithstanding, the advanced numbers backed up Longoria’s improvement, as he had a whopping 61.3% hard-hit rate (per Statcast) at the time of his injury. There were some earlier hints of a breakout, as Longoria greatly underperformed his xwOBA in both 2019 and 2020, though his underperformance this season (.380 wOBA to a .401 xwOBA) is at least a fairer representation of how well he has been hitting.
The Giants have kept on winning in Longoria’s absence, and his return as the regular third baseman will create some shuffling around the roster. Wilmer Flores and, most recently, Kris Bryant have been seeing action at the hot corner, and it’s safe to assume that those two and Tommy La Stella could get the odd start at third base to spell Longoria. Bryant will be playing everyday in some capacity around the diamond and will likely see more time in the outfield with Longoria back, while Flores, La Stella, and Donovan Solano will jostle for playing time at second base.
This surplus of talent falls into the “good problem to have” category for the first-place Giants, and Estrada is going to Triple-A despite hitting .300/.371/.438 over 89 PA this season. Estrada, however, still has minor league options remaining, which makes him the unlucky odd man out on the rather stacked San Francisco roster.
Jackson’s absence is due to vaccine side effects, according to Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group (Twitter link). That should mean a very brief absence for the 33-year-old, who has a 3.77 ERA and 37.5% strikeout rate over 14 1/3 relief innings this season.