Giants third baseman Evan Longoria is expected to miss at least six weeks following this week’s surgery to repair a damaged ligament in his right index finger, manager Gabe Kapler told reporters this morning (Twitter link via Maria I. Guardado of MLB.com). Utilityman Wilmer Flores is expected to man third base for the Giants on Opening Day in place of Longoria.
It’s a tough blow for the Giants, as the 36-year-old Longoria enjoyed a resurgent 2021 campaign at the plate when he batted .261/.351/.482 with 13 homers and 17 doubles in 291 plate appearances. A shoulder sprain kept the former Rookie of the Year and three-time All-Star out of action for two months over the summer, however, and Longoria will now endure another absence of note thanks to this latest injury. He’ll likely be sidelined into mid-May.
Flores, 30, is no stranger to third base, having played more than 1500 innings there in his career — including 430 frames last year while Longoria was on the shelf. Depending on the health of fellow infielder Tommy La Stella, Flores could be used in either a regular role or in a platoon setting at the hot corner. While Flores’ career .263/.311/.413 slash against righties is plenty respectable, it’s not as strong as his .278/.321/.502 line against lefties. The Giants have a pair of left-handed-hitting options who could see time at third base, Tommy La Stella and Jason Vosler, but La Stella figures to receive a good bit of playing time at second base as well. Versatile infielder Thairo Estrada, another righty bat, also figures to see an uptick in playing time with Longoria out. Likewise, infielder/outfielder Mauricio Dubon has experience at both second base and third base.
Suffice it to say, Kapler will have plenty of options to mix-and-match his infield alignment depending on the day’s matchup. The loss of Longoria nevertheless subtracts a source of right-handed pop from a lineup that’s also going to be without lefty-hitting LaMonte Wade Jr. for at least the season’s first week, if not a bit longer.
Longoria is in the final guaranteed season of a six-year, $100MM contract extension he signed while still playing with his original organization, the Rays, who selected him with the No. 3 overall pick back in 2006. The Giants hold a $13MM option for the 2023 season, though their decision on Longoria will actually be a net $8MM, as he’s owed a $5MM buyout even if the option is declined.