In a perfect world, Christian Arroyo would have seized the third base gig last year and never let go. He would have hit .290/.330/.440 with splendid defense and a cherubic smile, and he would already have had an animal nickname.
In an almost-perfect world, Pablo Sandoval would have returned from his detour through expectations hell in Boston and hit like he never left, the weight of the world off his shoulders. It would have annoyed Red Sox fans and thrilled Giants fans, which should be the desired result of everything in life, not just baseball-related stuff.
Last year was not a perfect world. It was, perhaps, an imperfect world. There were some things that happened that were not good for the ol’ Giants. Arroyo not hitting and then getting hurt was one of them. Sandoval hitting as poorly as he did with the team that released him was another one, albeit much more predictable. And so it was that the 2018 Giants found themselves looking for a new third baseman.
My theory is this: Actually, this isn’t bad timing. For whatever reason, there are at least 30 third basemen worth at least considering. It’s just a matter of the Giants picking the right one. Which I’m sure will happen! Yes, very sure. Cough.
The support for this theory comes from a simple search of players who have been worth at least a win above replacement over the last two years, on average. There are 36 players who have played third at least 25 percent of the time and been worth an average of at least a win. Some of those players aren’t on the market (“Hey, this is Bobby from the Giants, calling about Nolan Ar ... yello ...) and others aren’t exactly legitimate options (Ryan Schimpf would come with dingers, at least).
But it’s a wide selection of names that gives the Giants options. You can wonder about the younger players under the big names. Would the Rockies even talk about Ryan McMahon? The Braves want to sell high on Johan Camargo, right?
You can take a chance on the busted players that teams might want to get rid of. Luis Valbuena is much better than he was in 2017, but do the Angels want to pay him to find out? I know Martin Prado is a clubhouse wonder, but do the new owners care after his awful season?
You can go bananas and make a huge push for a younger player, like Eugenio Suarez, who might get expensive right as the Reds are looking to contend.
You can just sign Eduardo Nuñez, after all.
[Nuñez sprains thumb while signing]
Uh, you can just sign Todd Frazier, that is. Please note that Mike Moustakas is 32nd on that list, and he might be the highest paid third baseman in baseball soon.
I’m not sure if I’m well-informed enough to have a calcified opinion yet. I’m curious what the Reds would demand for Suarez, and if the Giants could even come close. I’m very much into Frazier if his contract is somewhere a little south of Denard Span’s. If the Marlins or Angels would like to give Prado or Valbuena away with sacks of cash in exchange for a second-tier prospect, I’d listen intently.
I’m also not sure if any of these options are realistic, but my theory goes something like this:
- There are about 25 or 26 teams that are mostly to completely satisfied with their third-base situation, which presents opportunities if there are young players who are blocked
- Some of those teams might want to get rid of their veterans to cut costs or give their young players a better opportunity
- There’s at least one third baseman on the free agent market who might fit the Giants’ needs without being too expensive
Options! The Giants have options. None of them are going to get Kris Bryant over here, but there is absolutely zero need to put everything on Sandoval or Arroyo. The Giants might choose incorrectly, sure. It would have been very 2017 if they had traded for Prado before last season, for example, and a lot of these 30+ players will flop next year for various reasons.
But it’s not a situation where the Giants are forced into re-signing Jake Peavy because the rest of the market is such a mess. Of all the positions where they can be creative, this is the one I’m expecting something unexpected. They know it would be an unmitigated mess to start Sandoval after the season both he and the team had last year. It won’t come to that. The third base position is deeper than most, and the Giants don’t have to screw this up.
They might! But they won’t be pushed into the viper pit. They’ll cannonball in their own damned selves. Somehow that makes me feel better.