For five of the last six years, the Giants haven’t had to worry about their second base situation. Joe Panik managed to be one of the most reliable defenders up the middle and with enough bat control that he wasn’t going to simply give away an at bat. Even when back problems limited his output in 2015, the qualities that made him an All-Star that year and Gold Glove second baseman a year later remained in noticeable quantities.
If this sounds like the windup to an obituary, it’s because the Giants’ move this afternoon to designate him for assignment carries with it an overwhelming sense of finality. They might’ve attempted to option him back to Triple-AAA for the rest of the month, but as a five-year veteran, Panik could’ve refused the assignment.
Rather than have him suffer the indignity of making that decision, then, the team placed him on waivers to allow for the possibility that another team might claim him. The new final trade deadline of July 31st removed the possibility of trade waivers — wherein a player could be placed on waivers and then be pulled back if claimed or traded freely if cleared — but doesn’t stop the traditional waiver process from playing out.
If he goes unclaimed, he’ll be released and become a free agent with about two months of the season remaining.
Joe Panik, World Series hero, is no longer on the 40-man roster, and within the next seven days, he won’t be in the Giants organization.
This isn’t a shock, but it’s sad all the same. For most of the year, Joe Panik had been the best defensive second baseman in baseball. But all year long, he just couldn’t hit. That’s really been the case since 2016, and I think Grant put his finger on the how and why of it in his article on The Athletic this morning (subscription required), which was about the Giants being historically bad at home but examined for a moment why the veterans who were once good at hitting in Oracle Park were suddenly much, much worse even while they were average or better on the road. Simply put: Statcast.
Every team suddenly had better data on what hitters could do. Every team had a better idea of where hitters would hit the ball. Whereas teams playing straight up against Panik in 2015 would watch baseballs fall in front of them and think, “There’s got to be a better way!” more data meant more ways to ensure a bad outcome for Panik.
Panik’s first two years: .783 OPS in 173 games. He missed pretty much all of August and most of September 2015, too, which might’ve shielded him a bit from the data gathering, but what teams did gather when he played and figured out in the offseason really hurt him, and fast. Since 2016, Panik has played in 470 games and has just a .691 OPS. His walk rate has gone up and strikeout rate down, but that didn’t lead to some sort of “can’t hit” change.
His Isolated Power (a measure of raw power) in the first two years of his career were .063 and .144. Then .140, .133, .078, .081. Not a steady decline — a remarkable dropoff. This year alone, he hit .232/.313/.326 (.638 OPS) in 74 games through June 30th. Not great, but he did have 18 extra base hits (14 doubles, a triple, and three home runs).
Since July 1st (29 games), he has just three extra base hits (three doubles) and a .587 OPS. He’s gotten worse over time. His defense has still been above league average this year, but it hasn’t been enough to overwhelm the complete lack of offense.
While you could argue Lincecum and Cain’s departures were far greater signals of the end of the dynasty, this DFA mid-season is the first real sign that the magic is gone and the new front office isn’t tied to any of these players. The Giants feel a lot more comfortable with Scooter Gennett, Donovan Solano and, perhaps, Mauricio Dubon playing second base.
That move’s probably for the best, but it doesn’t make it sting any less. Joe Panik came along when the Giants needed a second baseman again, and all he did was help them win another World Series.
Don’t forget: it was his home run that helped the Giants on their way to winning the NLCS to get them to this World Series:
He was a part of this memorable bit:
He kept the Giants alive in the last playoff run, too:
And during the doldrums of this post-success era the Giants are in, he still had two impressive feats: a franchise record 12 hits in a three-game series...
And putting a momentary shock into the Dodgers to kick off last season:
Joe Panik was part of a magical run and was everything the Giants hoped he’d be and more. It just didn’t last for as long as we’d hoped.
Update: Here’s Panik’s farewell statement.
I would like to thank the Giants, especially John Barr, Brian Sabean, and Bobby Evans for drafting me and giving me the opportunity to play for such a great organization. I would like to thank Boch, along with all the coaches I have had throughout my time here. Thank you to all my teammates. We have experienced some truly amazing moments together that I will never forget.
To the fans, it was an amazing 6 seasons. Thank you for all the passion and support you have given us players. Nothing has driven me more than winning here in San Francisco. I am forever grateful for the Giants taking the chance on me and allowing me to live out my life long dream.
It is time for me to start the next chapter in my career. But in my heart I will always be a Giant.