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The problem with trading Joe Panik

Joe Panik is one of the most valuable trade chips the Giants have. But which team would want him?

I don’t remember this picture or where it came from, but I’m using it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the Giants trading Joe Panik. Last year, I wrote about why it almost made sense before settling into my familiar role as an emotional, attached fan. The reasoning was that the Giants were accomplished at developing infielders, and that Panik’s ceiling as a Gold Glove, high-average, low-power pretty-gooder might have been more valuable to a team that wasn’t so desperate for power. It made sense, but I talked myself out of it.

Then the Giants traded Matt Duffy for all of those reasons, give or take. They got a major leaguer back who was supposed to contribute greatly for the next couple years — and Matt Moore is leading the National League in something this year! — and it showed that they were willing to be pragmatic, even when it came to their fan favorites.

Fast forward to this year, and Andrew Baggarly has a column about Panik (and his contract) being one of the best trade chips the Giants have.

With no long-term salary obligations weighing down his value, Panik would be among the more flexible and attractive assets that other clubs might seek to acquire as the Giants try to address a glaring need in center field, the left side of the bullpen and a lineup that lacks right-handed power.

This makes a lot of sense, even as it turns the stomach. Panik just got here, didn’t he? Where are the years going? What’s happening? They can’t do this again, right?

If we’re being completely cold and calculating, let’s say the Giants had a choice between a) Denard Span in center next year with Panik at second or b) Kevin Pillar in center with Christian Arroyo at second. Doesn’t that tempt you a little bit?

DON’T ANSWER THAT. IT’S A TRAP. You don’t need to answer because Panik probably isn’t going anywhere. Behold, a list of the teams and their second basemen for next year:

Second basemen around MLB

Team Second baseman
Team Second baseman
Angels ?
A's Chad Pinder/Jed Lowrie
Astros Jose Altuve
Blue Jays ?
Braves Ozzie Albies/Dansby Swanson
Brewers Jonathan Villar/Hernan Perez
Cardinals Kolten Wong
Cubs Javy Baez
Diamondbacks Brandon Drury
Dodgers Logan Forsythe/Austin Barnes
Indians Jose Ramirez
Mariners Robinson Cano
Marlins Dee Gordon
Mets ?
Nationals Daniel Murphy
Orioles Jonathan Schoop
Padres Yangervis Solarte
Phillies Cesar Hernandez
Pirates Adam Frazier/Josh Harrison
Rangers Rougned Odor
Rays ?
Red Sox Dustin Pedroia
Reds Scooter Gennett/Jose Peraza
Rockies D.J. LeMahieu
Royals Whit Merrifield
Tigers Ian Kinsler
Twins Brian Dozier
White Sox Yolmer Sanchez
Yankees Starlin Castro

And some of those question marks have tentative answers. The Rays might prefer Brad Miller to an outside alternative. The Jays might want to give Ryan Goins or Rob Refsnyder another shot. One of those teams might absolutely covet Joe Panik, but I’m not sure why we should assume that.

If the Angels are open to trading their center fielder for Panik, well, I’m all for that. Apart from that, though, I’m not seeing a fit with them.

It’s possible that the Giants see a buy-low opportunity for Rougned Odor and his power, with the Rangers deciding they need someone a little less enigmatic, but now we’re just exploring weird theories for the sake of exploring them.

Regardless, look at the other 29 teams. See how interested they would be in a high-average, slick-fielding, limited-power second baseman when you compare him to their current second baseman. There aren’t a lot of options. And if you find teams that almost make sense, you’ll need to ask yourself if that team would trade the major-league-ready player the Giants would almost certainly demand in return.

I mentioned Kevin Pillar up top, and he’s an arbitration-eligible player with years of team control, just like Panik. It’s possible that the Blue Jays might admit defeat when it comes to developing a second baseman, just like the Giants might admit defeat when it comes to developing a center fielder.

If that’s not the case — and it seems pretty unlikely — I’m pretty sure Panik is with the Giants next season. He’s a valuable trade chip in theory. In practice, though, teams have been pretty good at finding their own second basemen.