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Report: Giants interested in Evan Longoria

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that the San Francisco Giants “have keen interest” in Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.

Longoria is coming off his worst season as a major leaguer, having hit .261/.313/.424 with 20 homers in 2017. He’s also still owed $86 million through 2022. Which, back when the deal was signed seemed like quite a bargain for the Rays — and likely has been over the duration of the contract — but now seems somewhat steep for the 32 year-old third baseman. That said, the Giants currently have Pablo Sandoval penciled in at third base on their depth chart, so Longoria would definitely be an upgrade, even if 2017’s dip wasn’t just a blip.

Nightengale says that for the Giants to take on Longoria, the Rays would have to take on a high salary veteran such as Denard Span or Hunter Pence. Span is owed $9 million in 2018, with a $4 million buyout on a $12 million option for 2019. Pence is owed $18.5 million in 2018 in the final year of his contract and has a full no-trade clause.

If he stays with the Rays, Longoria will achieve 10-5 rights — full no-trade protection due to being a ten-year veteran with five years of service on the same club — so if the Rays are going to move him, it’ll be much easier this offseason, not once the 2018 season begins.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.