Pablo Sandoval may very well be one of the best postseason hitters in the recent history of the game. He is also one of the primary reasons that the San Francisco Giants have won three of the past five World Series championships. But when it comes to the business of baseball, no one is immune from the finances that seem to drive players away from teams. No one knows this more than Giants’ fans, who are seemingly upset about losing Panda.
As the Boston Red Sox prepare to make their signing of Sandoval to a five-year contract worth somewhere in the range of $100 million official, the defending champs are left to figure out how to fill that hole at third base and in the middle of the lineup.
I am here to tell those in Northern California not to worry too much over the loss of Sandoval. The Giants are not going to fade quietly into the night because a player that hit .279 with a substandard .324 on-base percentage during the 2014 regular season departed for greener pastures.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 24, 2014
That $20 million San Francisco saved on an annual basis can be used to bring in a combination of players that might have a bigger overall impact that Sandoval has had over the years. And in addition to the money San Francisco has saved by losing out on the Sandoval sweepstakes, the team already had money to spend on free agents.
This surely isn’t the end all be all for the defending champs.
Prized free agent starting pitcher Jon Lester has now been linked to the Giants. He’s a staff ace with championship pedigree and would form one of the best one-two tandems in MLB with World Series hero Madison Bumgarner. Having those two pitchers take the bump two out of every five days would more than make up for the loss of Pandoval.
And even if the Giants were to land Lester, it doesn’t mean that their offseason would be over. There are a nice amount of power bats still to be had on the open market.
New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley comes to mind first. He hit .243 with 13 homers and 49 RBI between the Yankees and San Diego Padres last season. The veteran is also a few years removed from winning a Gold Glove and would cost less than half of what the Red Sox doled out to Sandoval.
In terms of corner outfield help, another position of need in San Francisco, the likes of Colby Rasmus, Alex Rios and Torii Hunter could very well be had at reasonable prices.
In a vacuum, none of these hitters would make up for the loss of Sandoval. But let’s be realistic for a second here. The Red Sox are paying him for what he has done every other October over the past five seasons…not what he’s done during the course of a 162-game regular season. Sandoval’s presence in the Giants lineup during that span hasn’t necessarily been too great.
Speaking of being honest. Even with Sandoval in the lineup this past year, the Giants weren’t the best team in baseball. They got hot at the right time, inched into the playoffs as a wild card team and ran with the hot throwing arm of one Madison Bumgarner. While that statement isn’t to take anything away from the Giants, it’s the god’s honest truth. Heck, even manager Bruce Bochy would tell you that.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that San Francisco ends up with Lester, Headley and a combination of one of those outfielders. That’s a team that looks better on paper than the unit Bochy and Co. threw out there last year.
Insert any other combination of reasonably solid free agent options, and the same may very well ring true.
And then you have this simple fact. Sandoval will be nearly 34 years old when his new contract comes to a conclusion in Boston. As someone that has a history of being out of shape, is that a risk the Giants are happy they didn’t take on?
Internally, general maanger Brian Sabean and Co. might actually be relieved that Sandoval chose the east coast over San Francisco. It’s hard to argue against the idea that Boston took a substantial long-term risk here. A long-term risk the defending champions simply didn’t need to take.
We will see how the rest of the offseason plays out, but the Giants are in good hands here. They have one of the best general managers in sports and now have a nice amount of money to spend on the open market. That’s a recipe for success moving into the winter.
Photo: Fox Sports