Farhan Zaidi explains why Giants let Evan Longoria enter MLB free agency

Zaidi explains why Giants let Longo hit free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- Farhan Zaidi's preference is to go into stealth mode when chasing free agents, but at times he will give big hints about where he's leaning with guys who have just played for him.

Last October, Zaidi made it pretty clear during his end-of-season media session that he expected Kris Bryant to get his best deal elsewhere, but a year later he took a different approach with Evan Longoria, saying there was room for the third baseman on the 2023 roster. When free agency opened, though, Longoria, like Bryant before him, found himself on the open market.

What changed over the last month after both sides said they hoped for a reunion? For the Giants, the decision was more about what changed over the last three months.

During a call to discuss Joc Pederson's new deal, Zaidi said last week's decision with Longoria wasn't really about Longoria himself. The Giants all of a sudden found themselves with a lot of right-handed third base depth, so they decided to take the buyout with Longoria and open at-bats for others.

"Some of it is just the current construction of our roster. (We have) David Villar who we want to see get an opportunity at third base. J.D. Davis, who played great for us after the trade, is also an option (along with) Wilmer Flores," Zaidi said. "It's really not anything having to do with Longo, who played great for us on the field and was great in the clubhouse."

Longoria was so impactful in the clubhouse that he actually might have helped make it a bit easier for the Giants to move on. Villar credits Longoria for helping him turn a corner in early September, and over his final 26 games he hit eight homers with a .967 OPS. There had been some talk of accruing so much infield depth this offseason that Villar could start next year back in Triple-A, but he really has nothing left to prove in the minors and he's exactly the type of homegrown prospect the Giants should be prioritizing.

Davis had a .857 OPS after a deadline deal and hit eight homers. Flores looks headed for mostly right-handed DH and first base duty, but he can play third if needed. There could be a wildcard or two, as well.

Manager Gabe Kapler mentioned during the season that Thairo Estrada could be an above-average third baseman down the line and adding another impact middle infielder could move Estrada to the hot corner at times. Long term, the Giants are hopeful that prospect Casey Schmitt can lock down the job, and he should be an option at some point in 2023.

RELATED: Why Giants added six players, two top prospects to 40-man

All of those players hit from the right side, so it was getting crowded. The end result could be the Giants seeing a lot of Longoria, just in a different way. He said in early October that Tampa Bay and Arizona would be his two preferred destinations if the Giants let him go and the Diamondbacks reportedly have some interest.

This is Longoria's first experience with free agency after 15 seasons with the Rays and Giants and he said he's curious about the process. He'll now get to test it out, and who knows, perhaps the Giants will slide back into the picture at some point.

It's possible that Zaidi finds the best way to add help in the outfield or rotation is to trade Villar or Davis. He said the Giants are "not closing the door" on Longoria coming back at some point.

"With our current roster construction it was a little bit difficult to fit all those guys and make sure everybody got at-bats," he said. "We'll stay in touch as things change on our roster. It could still potentially be a fit for us but we know he's got other options that he's exploring right now."

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