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Freddy Sanchez signs one-year extension

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Wasn’t expecting this:

The Giants have reached an agreement with second baseman Freddy Sanchez on a one-year, $6MM extension, MLBTR has learned.

First reaction: the guy is made from sun-baked rubber bands and Saltines. Is it really necessary to extend him before the season, especially considering he missed parts of the last two seasons with two different ailments? There’s even a concern coming into this season, as he’s coming off shoulder surgery in December.

Second reaction: Okay, so who are the Giants passing up in the free agent market? What potential upgrades were passed over?

The list:

Kelly Johnson
Omar Infante
That one guy with the glove
Wait, I thought that guy was retired
Wait, I thought that guy was in jail

Ah. That would explain the urgency. While it would be swell to have Kelly Johnson on a short-term deal, it would be lunacy to assume the world works like a video game, and that he’d sign with the Giants just because they wanted him. And if Sanchez had another Freddy Sanchez kind of year, he’d attract a little interest in a thin free agent market, so you can’t just assume that he’d give the Giants exclusive negotiating rights throughout the beginning of the free agent period

The risk that Sanchez is hurt and/or ineffective for this new deal is a significant one, but so is the risk that the Giants would be stood up by every free agent following the season, entering 2012 with Mike Fontenot, Manny Burriss, or his organizational equivalent, starting in a lineup built for the short-term. The Giants essentially paid $6M for the difference between (Sanchez/in-house injury replacements) and (just the injury replacements). I'll need to see another halfway-decent, non-Cal League season from Charlie Culberson before I include him in any plans before 2014.

That’s a pretty hefty premium for a player who is hardly elite, whose value comes mostly from his defense, and who is watching too many Nick Johnson Fitness Now! DVD infomercials. But, like the Tejada signing, it’s not like there are great options overflowing from the great option well. It’s kind of a danged-if-you-do, Burrissed-if-you-don’t situation. I don’t like the extension, but I’m sure I’d hate the non-extension scenario just as much, if not more.

There was the possibility of a trade, too. If the Blue Jays wanted to make room for Brett Lawrie, they’d certainly consider trading Aaron Hill’s $8M salary, and the same might go for the Reds and their future with Brandon Phillips and Billy Hamilton. It might have been worth the risk to wait for something like that, but then you’re giving up a prospect package in addition to an additional $2M to $4M in salary for a player who might not be as much of an improvement as you think.

The real answer is that the Giants need some minor league depth, and they need it soon. It’s great that C/1B/3B are locked down for the next few years, but the middle infield options are practically non-existent. Until the Giants have something interesting from within the organization, they’ll have to rely on less-than-exciting-but-justifiable deals to veterans at second and short for a while. They can keep going with the short-term one-year-deals for a little bit, but it’s going to be a big problem sooner rather than later.

Also of note: Sanchez is one of the more likable players on a roster of likable players, so here’s hoping he stays healthy and effective. While it’s pragmatic to explore all of the options the Giants had, the best-case scenario would be for Sanchez to hit .350/.420/.470 with a couple of Gold Gloves. That's not just unlikely, it's ludicrous, but it's what I'm rooting for now. Because, hey, Freddy Sanchez is cool.