Although Pablo Sandoval has had his odd struggles throwing the ball to first base since Spring, the loveable Panda brings much more than just a bat to the Giants as his glove is one of the better in the league for his position. In the past two seasons, Sandoval has put up impressive fielding numbers at the hot corner, last year a .966 fielding percentage, .961 in 2010 – the league average at those times a much lower .954 and .951. The strong arm combined with the nimble and solid fielding was so important to the Giants’ success, but now with the Panda out for up to six weeks, possibly longer, the Giants find themselves searching for some stability in the infield.
Recalled from Fresno to replace Sandoval was the 24 year old Conor Gillaspie who’s arm and stick resemble more of a second basemen. The flat swing is good for average, but lacks any drive – his arm resembling that of an early career Alex Smith, lofting throws across the diamond. In the past two games we’ve seen poor decision making, botched balls and frisbee throws from Gillaspie – and that doesn’t even get into the .188 batting average. I’m certainly not trying to throw the young Giant under the bus nor am I saying he can’t improve, but it’s been a rough few days at the hot corner and you have to wonder just how much of an improvement Gillaspie can make in such a short amount of time.
Inside the organization, there’s little depth to deal with the Sandoval injury. Gillaspie was the only “true” third basemen on the AAA Grizzlies roster and while utility man Joaquin Arias does have 13 career innings at third, I’m not sure he’s the answer either.
Looking outside, it’s tough to find a potential trade target for the Giants as few names are available this early in the year and of those potentially on the block, do they bring anything more than the Giants’ current options? ESPN’s Jayson Stark made mention of the small trade market for replacement 3b earlier this week where the potential options were nauseating:
"If the Rays and Giants shop for third basemen to replace Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval, they might not find many viable options. The only potentially available names Stark has heard are the Orioles‘ Mark Reynolds and the Twins‘ Danny Valencia."
Reynolds, who many Giant fans may remember from his four year stint in the Arizona desert is a terrible defensive player who struggles mightily with the bat, despite his significant power. As for Valencia, who possesses solid defense as well as a competent ability to handle the bat, you’d assume the price tag would be too great for the Giants and Valencia doesn’t come without his own issues, much like his eye cringing on base percentage, last year topping out at a gross .294 in 608 plate appearances. Needless to say, for the price, do either make more sense then the current Gillaspie? Probably not, no.
Scary as it is to say, the Giants do have a guy who spent 360 games at 3B on their bench, currently void of any position, waiting to be activated from the disabled list. Yes, I’m talking about Aubrey Huff who hasn’t played the hot corner since 2008 when he started 31 games there for the Baltimore Orioles, putting up a very respectable .967 fielding percentage. Am I suggesting Huff take over until the Panda returns? I wouldn’t go that far – but you have to know it’ll cross Bochy’s mind at some point, especially if Conor continues to have his issues.
Unfortunately for the Giants, it’s a keep your head above water situation until the Panda returns. With no viable alternatives, mid-June can’t get here soon enough.