Seeking $90 Million Contract, San Francisco Giants Would Be Smart To Move Pablo Sandoval

Reports emerging from San Francisco state that the Giants and General Manager Brian Sabean have cut off contract extension talks with 2012 World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval. Having already turned down a very reasonable three-year, $40 million contract extension and seeking a 5-year, $90 million type of deal, the time has come for the Giants to explore their options in moving their All-Star third baseman.

In the above linked report, Sabean told Comcast’s Andrew Baggarly that he was “probably at the end of the rope” with regards to extension talks with Sandoval and his agents. Sandoval, represented by Gustavo Vasquez of SPS Sports Group, has reportedly not budged from his salary request of earning Hunter Pence like money. From the Giants standpoint, Sandoval is not worth that type of money and he will need to play his way up to that level, an assertion that Sandoval’s representatives don’t appear to agree with.

From a fanbase standpoint, it’s a tough sell. AT&T Park is littered with fans in panda hats and Sandoval has the same type of cult-like following that still worship Tim Lincecum in San Francisco. Much like Lincecum, Sandoval is one of the faces of the franchise’s two World Series titles over the last four seasons — the first two World Series titles in the Giants’ San Francisco existence. Pablo is the guy that went deep not once, not twice, but three times in a World Series game facing none other than Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in baseball at the time.

Lest you forget though, despite all the promise and talent he possesses, Pablo is also the guy that has disappointed the organization with his weight time after time, and failed to stay healthy time after time. He has hit over 20 homers just twice in his career, and not at all in the last two seasons. True, he could some day win a batting title. He has batted .330 in 2009 and .315 in 2011, but he has hit just .283 and .278 the past two seasons (which included the World Series season of 2012). His 2012 stats are largely ignored because of the tear he went on in the playoffs and in the World Series.

Prior to signing his 5-year, $90 million extension, Hunter Pence was coming off six straight seasons of hitting 20+ homers and four straight seasons of at least 90 RBI. Again, Sandoval has hit 20 homers just twice, and driven in 90 runs just once. He is three seasons removed from showing 20+ homer power, and five seasons removed from his 90 RBI campaign of 2009.

Here’s a look at Sandoval and Pence’s stats for their careers. You let me know if you see a direct correlation that says these two players should earn the same salary?

Pablo Sandoval

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 21 41 154 145 24 50 10 1 3 24 4 14 .345 .357 .490 .847
2009 22 153 633 572 79 189 44 5 25 90 52 83 .330 .387 .556 .943
2010 23 152 616 563 61 151 34 3 13 63 47 81 .268 .323 .409 .732
2011 24 117 466 426 55 134 26 3 23 70 32 63 .315 .357 .552 .909
2012 25 108 442 396 59 112 25 2 12 63 38 59 .283 .342 .447 .789
2013 26 141 584 525 52 146 27 2 14 79 47 79 .278 .341 .417 .758
2014 27 8 36 31 4 5 1 0 1 4 5 7 .161 .278 .290 .568
7 Yrs 720 2931 2658 334 787 167 16 91 393 225 386 .296 .350 .474 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

Hunter Pence (5-years/$90 Million 2014-2018)

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 24 108 484 456 57 147 30 9 17 69 11 5 26 95 .322 .360 .539 .899
2008 25 157 642 595 78 160 34 4 25 83 11 10 40 124 .269 .318 .466 .783
2009 26 159 647 585 76 165 26 5 25 72 14 11 58 109 .282 .346 .472 .818
2010 27 156 658 614 93 173 29 3 25 91 18 9 41 105 .282 .325 .461 .786
2011 28 154 668 606 84 190 38 5 22 97 8 2 56 124 .314 .370 .502 .871
2012 29 160 688 617 87 156 26 4 24 104 5 2 56 145 .253 .319 .425 .743
2013 30 162 687 629 91 178 35 5 27 99 22 3 52 115 .283 .339 .483 .822
2014 31 8 36 32 5 4 2 0 1 2 1 0 4 7 .125 .222 .281 .503
8 Yrs 1064 4510 4134 571 1173 220 35 166 617 90 42 333 824 .284 .338 .474 .812
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

Do you want to hedge your bets that after giving Pablo a huge payday he will suddenly find the motivation to stay in peak physical condition and keep the weight off?

To take it further than just Pence, reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen is in the middle of a 6-year extension that he signed in 2012 for $51.5 million. In no conversation taking place anywhere on the globe is Pablo Sandoval in the same caliber as Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is one of the most exciting and athletic players in the game. Yes, Pablo can hit when he is motivated and in shape, but McCutchen is headed towards greatness that Sandoval will never sniff as he heads towards his eventual second career as an aging American League DH. Okay, that may have been a bit harsh, but if you looked at his career trajectory up to this point, can you truthfully say that it isn’t where he is eventually headed?

Andrew McCutchen  (6-years /$51.5 Million 2012-2017)

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 22 108 493 433 74 124 26 9 12 54 22 5 54 83 .286 .365 .471 .836
2010 23 154 653 570 94 163 35 5 16 56 33 10 70 89 .286 .365 .449 .814
2011 24 158 678 572 87 148 34 5 23 89 23 10 89 126 .259 .364 .456 .820
2012 25 157 673 593 107 194 29 6 31 96 20 12 70 132 .327 .400 .553 .953
2013 26 157 674 583 97 185 38 5 21 84 27 10 78 101 .317 .404 .508 .911
2014 27 7 34 26 3 7 1 1 0 3 0 0 8 6 .269 .441 .385 .826
6 Yrs 741 3205 2777 462 821 163 31 103 382 125 47 369 537 .296 .381 .488 .869
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

Based on McCutchen’s salary and what similarities there are in terms of their production (primarily the batting average and power potential), the Giants’ offer of 3-years and $40 million was more than fair for a player with the weight and injury concerns that accompany Sandoval.

To take it to a bit of an extreme, look at the career of former division rival Garret Atkins. From 2005-2008, Atkins was a better player than Sandoval has been throughout his career. Granted, he was playing in Colorado and that probably had inflated numbers. He earned $4.4 million in 2008, $7 million in 2009 and then dropped off to $4 million in 2010. By 2011 he was out of baseball. There’s the far end of the scale of what could happen, however unlikely it may be.

Garrett Atkins ($4.4M in 2008, $7M in 2009, $4M in 2010)

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2003 23 25 73 69 6 11 2 0 0 4 0 0 3 14 .159 .205 .188 .394
2004 24 15 33 28 3 10 2 0 1 8 0 0 4 3 .357 .424 .536 .960
2005 25 138 573 519 62 149 31 1 13 89 0 2 45 72 .287 .347 .426 .773
2006 26 157 695 602 117 198 48 1 29 120 4 0 79 76 .329 .409 .556 .965
2007 27 157 684 605 83 182 35 1 25 111 3 1 67 96 .301 .367 .486 .853
2008 28 155 664 611 86 175 32 3 21 99 1 1 40 100 .286 .328 .452 .780
2009 29 126 399 354 37 80 12 1 9 48 0 0 41 58 .226 .308 .342 .650
2010 30 44 152 140 5 30 7 0 1 9 0 0 12 30 .214 .276 .286 .562
8 Yrs 817 3273 2928 399 835 169 7 99 488 8 4 291 449 .285 .350 .449 .799
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

There is just no justification at this time for giving Pablo an average of $18 million per season.

In Baggarly’s piece, Sabean explains his stance:

“We’ve given our best shot with good faith intended to try to get him signed and they’ve drawn a line in the sand that we’re not going to beat nor should we meet,” Sabean told CSN Bay Area’s Jim Kozimor on Yahoo Sportstalk Live Tuesday. “Things have been tabled and we’ll see what happens up the line, but we’re not going to have ongoing talks from this time forward.”

What to do with Sandoval moving forward is tricky. The Giants can simply let this season play out and take their chances in resigning him on the open market at the end of the season. Sandoval is an important part of the Giants lineup, making this probably the most likely route that the team will choose to go. He will receive a qualifying offer at the end of the season as they try to continue negotiating with him and if he winds up finding a richer offer from another team and leaves, they will receive a draft pick as compensation.

The better route, although more controversial within the confines of a far reaching Giants’ fan base, would be to trade Sandoval midseason to another contender in need of a bat and maximize their return. It will be tough for San Francisco fans to see Sandoval shipped to another team, especially if the Giants are also in contention (which they should be), but if he can bring back a player that can help for a few seasons and doesn’t come with the same baggage, it is a move that should be embraced by fans that can look past their own panda hats.

Hey, end of the year, Pablo in a different uniform, Sabean can go grab Chase Headley in free agency and instantly fill the hole in the lineup created by Sandoval’s departure. It would be a safer gamble giving the money to Headley than it would giving it to Sandoval.

It wouldn’t be the first time Sabean has taken directly from the Padres. He signed Bruce Bochy fresh out of managing the Padres following the 2006 season. That move seemed to work pretty well, wouldn’t you say?

Not to say that Headley would be the replacement, it could be a hot prospect, a trade, or another free agent that comes in.  It’s just to say that sometimes the best moves you make are the ones you don’t make. In this case, not giving Sandoval the contract he is looking for and instead moving him along for more than just a compensation draft pick is likely the best move for the organization.

Giants fans will move on. There has to be another animal hat that can replace the panda hats around 3rd and King.