Over at ESPN, Buster Olney broke down the pending free agents to guess at which ones were going to get a qualifying offer. Players who get the qualifying offer can accept a one-year deal from the team at the average value of the top 125 salaries in baseball -- around $15 million or so. The ones who refuse will cost their new team a draft pick if they sign elsewhere. Olney thinks Pablo Sandoval will get (and refuse) the qualifying offer, but he slipped in a curious note in there:
San Francisco is interested in re-signing him and intends to give him a qualifying offer, with the expectation that he will reject it and test the market. The team seems prepared to offer him a three-year deal, but four years might be a stretch.
If it seems obvious that Sandoval will get a qualifying offer, it is, but don't forget the weirdness of Angel Pagan after 2012. The Giants didn't give him the QO and probably ended up paying him more because of it, considering that the competition for Pagan was emboldened because he didn't cost a draft pick. It was odd. The Giants can be odd. Never underestimate the odd.
The part about three years is what interests me, though. The odds of getting Sandoval on a three-year deal are close to the odds of getting Jon Lester on a one-year deal. As in, why even talk about it? It's basically the Posey-to-short talk of contracts: Once you entertain it as a serious possibility, you lose credibility. That's directed more at the Giants than Olney, because if there's anyone in the front office who thinks Sandoval isn't going to get a five-year deal -- at least -- they're taking the odd to new levels.
I just underestimated the odd again, dang it.
It's possible, if not likely, that the Giants are preparing to offer him a three-year deal as an opening salvo, fully prepared to stretch to four or five years. You don't open with a seven-year offer and work your way back to five. So I'm not freaking out over this rumor. It makes sense, even.
It brings up an interesting point, though, and it's one I don't remember explicitly making: Someone's going to offer Sandoval the keys to Sillytown. The Giants have a long track record of retaining their own free agents, but Sandoval's different. Pagan was still something of an enigma in a center-rich market; Scutaro was old; Huff was both old and enigmatic; Lincecum was guaranteed to get a short-term deal; none of their relievers were going to get closer money; Pence signed before hitting the market. You can do that for every free agent the Giants retained. There's a reason why none of them got the keys to Sillytown.
Sandoval is much, much different. Have you seen the pending free agents this offseason? If you're looking for hitting, it's a mess. Hanley Ramirez is probably the best hitter, followed by Sandoval. Melky Cabrera sneaks in the top five. Old catchers and DH-bound sluggers round out the rest. Not only does Sandoval stand out, but he's relatively young for a free agent. Someone's going to overpay.
Someone's going to overpay because there's always a team or three that's willing to write off the last year or two of a contract because they're that interested in the part they're expecting to be productive. The Yankees aren't expecting Jacoby Ellsbury to be good in 2019; they're expecting him to be so good until then that his '19 was a necessary part of the deal.
This is why I'm pessimistic about the Giants keeping Sandoval around. They missed their window. How comfortable are you with Sandoval as a 31-year-old hitter? Kinda comfortable? There's a team out there that's quite comfortable with the idea, and they don't start getting uncomfortable until he's 32 or 33. And they'll offer a contract for those years, if not one more, because that's going to be a necessary part of the deal.
If Shin-Soo Choo -- an oft-injured 31-year-old outfielder -- can get seven years, Sandoval can get seven years. The Giants won't be comfortable with that, but there's still a chance they can appeal to a sense of loyalty/familiarity/fan appreciation and get him for five years. If they're thinking there's a chance they can pick him up for a contract that everyone's comfortable with, though, forget it.
You're going to be shocked by the contract Sandoval gets. If the Giants think they can start at three years and work their way up to five, they're going to be shocked, too. The only way a team is employing Sandoval next year is if they've given him a contract that makes everyone uncomfortable. It's time to forget about the reasonable deals or time to forget about Pablo. You can't have both.