Pablo Sandoval is suffering through a lousy start to the season. Gotta be honest with you, considering the Giants are 12-10 despite the start, I'm secretly thrilled. Let his price drop. Let his price plummet! He's not this bad -- he has a flukey .186 batting average on balls in play -- so maybe now's the chance to pounce. If he really is pressing because of the contract, maybe he'll want to stop pressing.
According to Jon Heyman, though, Sandoval's price is actually more than what we heard last time.
Neither side will discuss the particulars of the offers and counteroffers, but word is Sandoval is seeking at least $100 million on a five-year deal, which shouldn't come as a shock considering his age (27), a market lacking in big punch (among players in their prime, Chase Headley may be the closest thing to Sandoval, and he isn't the player Panda is) and a terrific talent that has seen him twice make All-Star teams, twice receive MVP votes and twice exceed a .900 OPS despite not always being in peak shape ("just a great, great hitter," one competing executive called him).
Dang. The original reports had Pablo looking for the Pence -- five years, $90 million. When that report came out, I suggested the Giants should roll around on the floor in excitement. It looks like that report was off.
Free agency is always a mess, except for players in their mid-20s. Vlad Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltran all signed deals that looked insane at first, but they were still young, and they all worked out magnificently for their new teams. Sandoval isn't exactly at the Hall of Fameish level of those three, but the point still stands. He should be the rare player with a long-term deal that's as much for the future as the present.
If he can keep his weight down. If he can start hitting. If he can stay healthy. If.
I believe in the if. I'm almost certain the Giants don't, or at least someone at the top doesn't. Maybe I'm not being creative enough when I think of a post-Pablo world, but I don't see an exciting alternative. I don't even see a palatable alternative. The in-house option is something like Joaquin Arias and Brandon Hicks, unless you think Adam Duvall can handle the position defensively (which would put you in a small, small minority). The alternative on the open market would be Headley, who has serious injury concerns and would still be expensive. Anything on the trading block that could come close to replacing Sandoval's production would cost whatever fancy prospects the Giants have at the end of the year.
So, Pablo? Pablo. It kind of has to be Pablo. There's always behind-the-scenes stuff that dorks like me aren't privy to, but I'm not seeing the alternative. I get that the Giants are worried about his production/fitness, but I thought the five-year/$90 million idea was low enough to take that chance. An extra $10 million or so doesn't scare me away, but it's not exactly the "can of corn" (<--- baseball term) it seemed at first. Not-so-bold prediction: If he has a repeat of, say, his 2010 season, he still gets $50 million or more.
Of course, it's not enough to look at his BABIP and explain everything away so neatly. His strikeouts are up, as are his infield pop-ups. He kinda looks like butt out there (<---- scouting term), so maybe this isn't the time to pounce. But if you were looking for a relative bargain, it probably isn't coming. And considering the paucity of hitters on the open market , I'm not sure how I tricked myself into believing it was possible in the first place.