Home Support system Giants manager Gabe Kapler thinks Evan Longoria can play beyond this season

Giants manager Gabe Kapler thinks Evan Longoria can play beyond this season

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CHICAGO — Evan Longoria told the Chronicle earlier this summer that if the San Francisco Giants don’t choose his 2023 option, he’s considering retirement. But manager Gabe Kapler believes Longoria is more than capable of continuing to play if he chooses.

Kapler, Longoria’s former teammate in Tampa Bay, raved ahead of Sunday night’s game at Wrigley Field about the skills the team’s oldest player still possesses.

“I’ve been really fascinated by the last two years with Longo,” Kapler said. “There was this elite-level performance, and then for a few years some of that went away and he wasn’t as good as he was in Tampa.

“Over the past two years, even though the volume hasn’t been there, the performance when it has been on the pitch has been really great as a defender and as an attacking performance. What he’s shown on that trip and what he’s shown over the past two years is that he’s still a very effective player in the major leagues. So the trick now is to figure out how to keep him on the pitch as much as possible, not just this year but for whatever happens to him next year.

Kapler said Longoria, whose .778 OPS is the second-best in his Giants’ career and second-best among Giants regulars, is part of discussions about how best to balance giving him enough playing time to continue to play well while giving him adequate recovery. time. The team learned from Buster Posey’s schedule last year – designed for peak performance and health – that the most important element for an older player to get enough rest is to stick to the schedule, even if it is tempting to change it. Otherwise, Posey would have been in the lineup a lot more often and would have hit the ground.

“It really takes good planning, it takes good discipline,” Kapler said, adding of Longoria, “Whatever happens for him, wherever he lands and if he decides to stay on this journey, it will take a support system that is not only strategic but a team that supports their game less regularly.

The Giants have a $13 million option on 36-year-old Longoria for next year that includes a $5 million buyout, so essentially they have a strong defensive third baseman and midrange hitter. for $8 million. San Francisco could look to rookie David Villar, who has homered four in the last seven games, to play third, but Villar can play in multiple positions and there are few third basemen better than Longoria. A Longoria-Villar combo, with Villar also playing first and second, could be pretty nifty.

Brandon Crawford, 35, is under contract for next year, which means the Giants’ infield left side would continue to be the oldest in baseball if Longoria returns. But what if Crawford were to go second if San Francisco pursued a free agent shortstop? Or if Casey Schmidt were to fight his way into the majors next season like Villar did this year? It’s hard to imagine Crawford playing anything other than shortstop for San Francisco, but Kapler said position changes often make sense later in careers.

“I think he’s a shortstop,” Kapler said. “That doesn’t mean you have to see every step of the stair in September 2022, but there are times when players feel like it’s a good time to make an adjustment. I don’t know when that time will be for Craw, but one thing I know is that if and when that time comes, he will be intimately involved in discussions and decisions.

Susan Slusser covers the Giants for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @susanslusser