With the recent news that Pablo Sandoval shot down the Giants’ 3-year, $40 million extension offer, what should they do now? Sandoval is reportedly seeking a contract in the neighborhood of the one Hunter Pence received last September (5/$90 million) from the Giants. The Giants appear to be in a bit of a dilemma as Sandoval is a fan favorite and their minor league cupboard appears bare at third base, but on the other hand, he has weight issues and has had problems staying on the field.
Sandoval, the 2012 World Series MVP, lost about 40 pounds (it appears some has already been put back on) this off-season as he seems poised to have a big year with free agency looming. I’m not completely sold that Pablo’s weight was a major factor in his past injuries, as two of his lengthiest DL stints were due to broken hamate bones in each hand. I do believe that in order for Sandoval to earn a hefty contract, he will need to stay at third base and that will not happen if he continues to put weight on. Defensive metrics show that Sandoval was a below average third baseman last season (-10 Runs Saved per Baseball Reference), and at this point playing first base is not even an option with the emergence of Brandon Belt, as well as the eventual Buster Posey move to first.
The biggest issue for me are Sandoval’s declining offensive numbers over the past few seasons:
While the offensive trend is not a good sign, I would feel comfortable offering Sandoval a contract as high as 3-years/$50 million. I definitely would not go over 3 years, considering the weight problems that Sandoval has had in the past and I feel that $16.7 million per season is more than fair given the going free agent market.
Best case: Sandoval keeps the weight off and plays league average defense at third for the duration of the deal. He stays relatively healthy and regains some of the power that was sapped by his recent hand surgeries and hits similar to his 2011 season. This 3-year extension would only take Sandoval through his age 31 season, so this is possible.
Worst case: Sandoval continues to decline offensively and eats his way off of third base and you are stuck with a year or so of an extremely expensive bench bat.
If Sandoval stands strong on his 5-year (or even 4-year) contract demands, the Giants should simply make him the qualifying offer after this season and let him walk once he declines. This way the Giants could get a draft pick if he signs elsewhere, and use their money to sign a better third basemen like San Diego’s Chase Headley. The Giants could also get Sandoval back at a discounted rate going this route, as teams may be hesitant to lose a draft pick by signing Sandoval (like Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales).
Please let me know your thoughts and what contract, if any, you would offer to Pablo.