The news that may have caught the ears of most of the San Francisco Giants fanbase willing to listen in early December was that if, per Giants management, Pablo Sandoval came to Spring Training in shape, then he would be rewarded with contract extension talks, as Pablo goes into his final year of team control. Sandoval will not be 28 until August of 2014, which will easily put him at the youngest of the free agent class of 3B going into the 2014 offseason. Who are the other members of the 2014 3B Free Agent class, you ask? Thanks to MLB Trade Rumors, I can tell you exactly which players:
Alberto Callaspo (32)
Jack Hannahan (35) – $4MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Chase Headley (31)
Donnie Murphy (32)
Nick Punto (37) – club/vesting option
Aramis Ramirez (37) – mutual option
Hanley Ramirez (31)
Pablo Sandoval (28)
Ty Wigginton (37)
There were reports Hanley Ramirez might be working on an extension with the Dodgers, and really unless he gets more injured in many more places, it’s hard to see the Dodgers not keeping HanRam. Chase Headley is either going to be long-termed by the Padres or traded for a package, because keeping him around for a supplemental draft pick off of a qualifying offer doesn’t make much sense to me (and that’s final! *wipes hands clean*). So your choices then are everything else. Want to try in-house? Joe Panik positional change? Probably to 2B more than 3B, so unlikely. Ryder Jones? Only 19, still a ways to go. Adam Duvall — can he hold his own at the 3B position while improving power and lowering K%? That’s left to be seen. Duvall may be the Giants’ strongest threat against Pablo to show he is replaceable as opposed to saying, “You know, Donnie Murphy would look pret-ty good in black and orange starting for us.”
A Pablo extension wouldn’t be the end-all for Duvall or Jones, you can’t have too much depth and it gives time for the young Ryder to develop through the system. The good thing about the Panda, which has been hinted at in the article title, is Pablo’s age. If Pablo goes into the offseason as a position player, he could be one of two or three players in their twenties that hits the market (number of players depends on if the Royals’ Billy Butler‘s club option gets picked up). Maybe Pablo’s best years are behind him because that’s when he was at his best physically and once he gets paid he won’t care about fitness. I don’t know. Pablo though, has still shown some use even in the last two years, which haven’t been his best days. 26 HR combined in those last two seasons combined is just one over the 25 he clubbed in 2009 and we’ve all been waiting for him to pass 30 since. His K% has held pretty steady in the 13% range throughout his career, a BABIP in the low .300’s — matching .301’s in ’12 and ’13, and mostly above average production in wRC+ every year but 2010. Everybody gets frustrated with Pablo because we’ve seen great things out of him and we blame his failures to meet expectations on his fat.
As difficult as it is, this saga of #FatChats and whatnots, I believe keeping Pablo around is the best move for the Giants here, and as long as Pablo is healthy (and skinny), I’m pretty sure he knows it, too. If he has someone supervising him in addition to his brother cooking for him — I don’t know why, but — I trust the process. I think the extension needs to get done otherwise the Giants could find themselves with a problem at the hot corner. To answer any questions, no, I’m not ready for Buster Posey at 3B. I like him at catcher until he and the Giants agree he’s had enough. Contract length and numbers I’ve seen floated around social media from fans are probably five years with fifteen-twenty million of average annual value being where it would land. I think the Giants could get it done in that lower range for now, but if Pablo explodes offensively in 2014 before a deal is done, you better believe twenty a year won’t be out of the question.