On Tuesday, the Giants reportedly signed second baseman Yolmer Sánchez to a minor league deal. Interestingly, Sánchez was offered major league deals from multiple clubs, but reportedly turned them down because he wanted to compete for a starting job.
Which is to say, the Giants are promising Sánchez a chance to compete for a starting job.
Free-agent 2B Yolmer Sánchez in agreement with #SFGiants on minor-league deal, source tells The Athletic. Turned down major-league offers for chance to be everyday starter at second base.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 28, 2020
This perhaps comes as something of a surprise. If you assumed second base was Mauricio Dubón’s to lose, you are certainly not alone. But the position is at least up for grabs enough for Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris to see what Sánchez can offer.
So, what can Sánchez offer? Something not horribly far off from what the premise of Joe Panik was, at least in recent years.
Sánchez is a spectacular defender, and earned a Gold Glove award in 2019 while playing for the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he’s played for up to this point. Sánchez has been so good defensively that he’s been worth a combined 8.2 Wins Above Replacement over the past three years, per Baseball-Reference, despite being wildly lackluster with the bat.
So, about that bat. While Sánchez fits in with the Giants strengths (defense), he does nothing to fix their glaring weakness (complete and utter lack of run production). In 555 plate appearances a year ago, the 27-year old switch-hitter slashed .252/.318/.321, good for a wRC+ of 74. Those numbers were right in line with his career average, so don’t count on a bounce-back season - there’s nothing to bounce back to.
For context, that offensive production is right in the same neighborhood as Panik and Brandon Crawford’s 2019. Not exactly inspiring for a team that struggled to find runs seemingly every game.
Still, value is value, and Sánchez has proven to be a competent player over the last few years, even if the fit feels odd. And in reality, his presence on the roster likely doesn’t mean that Dubón’s spot is in question, but rather that Dubón’s role may be flexible.
The Giants have been open about wanting to play Dubón at more than just second base, and having an everyday player to fill that spot could afford the Giants that flexibility. Sánchez was a much stronger hitter from the right side in 2019, which means the Giants could bench Crawford against left-handed pitchers, start Dubón at shortstop, and have Sánchez man the other side of second. Then again, looking at his career as a whole shows that he’s been a bitter hitter from the left side, so a platoon at second is an option. There’s also been a little talk of Dubón taking his middle infield skills to middle outfield, which would be another option to keep him in the lineup while maximizing the elite glovework of Sanchez.
Or, of course, Sánchez might just not make the team. That’s always an option.
Either way, the signing is par for the course for Zaidi and Harris. Sánchez represents options for the Giants, and we know they like that.