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Just imagine how messed up the Giants' offseason would have been with Pablo Sandoval

The Giants have missed out on exactly one homegrown free agent in the last decade. Boy, did they ever get lucky.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

You probably don't remember it, but about 10 months ago, this site was frantically detailing every Pablo Sandoval rumor. The Giants weren't sure if they could re-sign him, and he became the priority of the offseason. Considering they didn't have any in-house options to play third base -- just Joaquin Arias and that skinny kid who skipped Triple-A -- this was a big deal.

I was for an extension before the offseason started. I was for an extension two years ago. I thought it was criminal that the Giants were going to mess around with one of the only hitters they had developed since Matt Williams. For the most part, if there were disagreements, they were about the length and the size of the contract. The people arguing that he should go away would always come off as human YouTube comments, but they were in the minority. Most Giants fans, I'll gather, would have seen Sandoval being back in 2015 as a positive development, depending on the contract.

Well, we were all wrong. The human YouTube comments were right. Pablo Sandoval has been awful, among the worst players in either league. He's still owed $72.4 million. Let's check in with CSN New England and see what the latest articles  are s...

Pablo Sandoval's conditioning is an issue.

That's the first sentence.

So things aren't going well for Sandoval over there.

We can drift down the dark alleys of this alternate reality on two fronts.

What would have happened to Matt Duffy?

It's a fair question. There was some talk about him getting some time in the outfield, but there was also talk of letting him do it in Triple-A. There's no scenario in which the Giants come out better, of course. He would have likely filled in for Joe Panik after the back injury, which would have led to small-sample chicanery. Either he would have hit poorly and convinced everyone he was really a utility player, or he would have hit well and gone right back to the bench before the start of next season. Unless he was traded, which would have been a possibility, too.

There's no way the story has a happy ending. It's a Choose Your Own Story that ends with Pablo Sandoval, back at third, year after year, still making the talk radio lines burn up. The best outcome is probably that Duffy hits his way into a starting left field gig, which would have prevented us from discovering that he plays third base with grace and aplomb.

Instead, the Giants have their third baseman for a year longer, and he's much younger and cheaper. More productive, too. Losing out on a free agent target and then finding a superior option under the bed is so Cardinals. It almost makes me feel ashamed. Almost.

This offseason would have been Mike Leake and lots of sleep

Maybe not the actual Mike Leake, but whatever his equivalent would have been in the Giants' eyes. The organization has a choice: one big, fancy starting ace-type, or two above-average quiet types. With Sandoval, they would have had to pick just one mid-market starter and hope he didn't go all Matt Morris.

(Actually, that strategy still shouldn't surprise us. That seems like a very Giants offseason, really.)

The most important development this season was the emergency of Duffy and the confidence the Giants have in the lineup if everyone is healthy. This will allow them to dish out a hefty salary to a pitcher, considering they don't have a hefty salary for their third baseman (or second baseman, for that matter.)

With Pablo back, the offseason focus would have been a) could Pablo rebound?, b) what's wrong with Pablo?, c) how in the heck are the Giants going to find another starting pitcher when they're already close to the top of their budget, and d) seriously, Pablo's probably fine, right? Instead of charging into the offseason with an obvious need and the means with which to fill it, the Giants would have looked around nervously, unsure of how to best improve the roster.

Now, there will be a twist. I mean, I don't know what it is, but there's always a twist. Baseball is a student-filmmaker who's watched nothing but Shyamalan movies, and it thinks it's so clever. Sandoval will hit .367 next year, whereas the Giants will use the savings on a neo-Zito. Or Kendry Flores will win two Cy Youngs for the Marlins that he would have won with the Giants if Sandoval re-signs. Don't start howling at the moon just yet about how lucky the Giants are they missed out on him.

Knowing what we know now? Goodness, how the Giants got stupendously lucky on this one. It's the kind of luck that could help the 2019 roster, much less next year's. I was devastated that the Giants lost out on Sandoval. I was also devastated they missed out on James Shields. I was devastated last night when Safeway was out of pine nuts. Really, I take things much too hard. When it comes to Sandoval, though, his decision should be paying off for the Giants for years and years. Just not how we all expected.