If the San Francisco Giants look to replace Pablo Sandoval with a Free Agent, who should it be?
Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco Giants fans everywhere no doubt have an opinion on whether they want Pablo Sandoval to return as the team’s third baseman. But if the Panda doesn’t return, who will play third base for the Giants in 2015 and beyond?
Previously, we looked at some of the replacement options from within the San Francisco Giants organization. Here, we’re going to look at the options from outside of the organization, specifically the free agents.
Before we dig too deep, these are the options (per MLB Trade Rumors).
- Alberto Callaspo — Oakland Athletics
- Jack Hannahan* — Cincinnati Reds
- Chase Headley — New York Yankees
- Kelly Johnson — Baltimore Orioles
- Donnie Murphy — Atlanta Braves
- Nick Punto* — Oakland Athletics
- Aramis Ramirez* — Milwaukee Brewers
- Hanley Ramirez — Los Angeles Dodgers
- Mark Reynolds — Milwaukee Brewers
- Pablo Sandoval — San Francisco Giants
- Kevin Youkilis — Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
* — Either the team or player has an option to come back.
Aside from Sandoval, only three of those guys — Chase Headley, Aramis Ramirez, and Hanley Ramirez — are what you’d call starting caliber third basemen.
As will be the case with all of these guys, my opinion of this move would depend on money. Really, I don’t care how much Larry Baer and the Giants spend on individual players. But I do know that while the Giants are considered a big market team, they don’t have the never-ending budget that teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox seem to have. I wouldn’t have a big problem with Chase Headley, but he can’t be paid for what happened in 2012.
He did hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs that year, but the rest of Headley’s career points to about half that production being the norm. The Giants also shouldn’t focus too much on what he’s done with the Yankees. The power has been good in the Bronx, but he’d be far more likely to replicate his numbers at Petco Park with the Padres.
When I first looked at Headley, I thought he’d be a significant downgrade from Sandoval. By the numbers, Sandoval has been the better player, but the similarities don’t stop at them both being switch-hitting third basemen.
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Sandoval has been the better power hitter. But barring a great weekend, the last time he hit 20 homers in a year was 2011 and his career high was 25 in 2009.
If Headley gets paid for what he did in 2012, then he’s going to be a bad contract for whatever team lands him. But if he’s paid for 2013 and 2014, he’s potentially a nice bargain. As a matter of fact, if the early season report from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is true and Sandoval is looking for anything close to 100 million, I’d go as far as to say that I’d rather have Headley.
The first thing that needs to be noted about Aramis Ramirez is this. The Brewers and Ramirez hold a mutual $14 million option for next season. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has reported that the Brewers will exercise their half of that option. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com’s Brew Beat reported that GM Doug Melvin has denied that. But even if Heyman’s report ends up being true, Ramirez himself has to exercise his half of the option.
Now, the question about the accuracy of Heyman’s report is important.
- Obviously if they both pick up the option, then he’s not a free agent anymore.
- If indeed they are going to pick up their option and Ramirez declines his, it’s not likely that he’ll sign anywhere for much less than $14 million, if not significantly more.
- Similarly, if Ramirez picks up his option and the Brewers decline, I’d call it unlikely that he’d sign anywhere for much less than $14 million.
- If they both decline, then his asking price is a little more difficult to figure out without talking to Aramis or his representatives. I will say that he’ll be 37 and has made just under $134 million throughout his career. I don’t see Ramirez taking a huge discount.
Statistically, Ramirez and Sandoval aren’t far apart. If the Giants are willing to spend a lot of money on Aramis, my best guess is that it would be a short term deal and that the only thing keeping them from spending similar money on Sandoval would be the length. Sandoval is eight years younger, so that would make some sense.
Statistically, Ramirez has been not only good, but consistent for most of his career. Through Thursday’s game against the Reds, Ramirez has a .286/.344/.497 career slash line and has averaged 29 homers and 106 RBI per 162 games. It’s difficult to pick that apart too much.
My biggest problem with Ramirez is simply that he’s pretty obviously a player in decline. Ramirez missed nearly half of the 2013 season and will miss about 30 games this year, depending on what he does over the season’s final weekend. He’ll turn 37 next June, so that’s not an accident, and not likely to get much better as he gets closer to 40.
I wouldn’t hate Ramirez on a short term deal but even at that, Brian Sabean would need to be sure the backup third baseman is a good one.
Definitely the most intriguing of the three options. Signing Hanley Ramirez would not only mean bringing a potentially great player to the Giants, but taking one away from the Dodgers.
Having said that, as good as Hanley can be, I’m not exactly sure that him leaving the Dodgers would break L.A.’s collective hearts. Ramirez is a terrible defensive shortstop, which is why we’re viewing him as a third baseman. The Dodgers have Juan Uribe at third base and a wealth of shortstop prospects. Now, I could see them signing Hanley, having him play short for one more year and then sliding him over third in 2016 when Uribe’s contract expires.
The problem with Ramirez is that like Sandoval, he’s wildly inconsistent. Hanley can carry a team for several weeks, but is also very capable of going through prolonged slumps. Actually, not that different from Sandoval. Also, if Ramirez isn’t injury prone, he is at least a big injury risk. Also not unlike Sandoval.
Ultimately, I don’t think this is going to happen, and it boils down to money. It’s pure speculation on my end, but it’s very possible that the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox will all be somewhat involved. Heck, even the Tigers seem to be good for one big splash per offseason, and Hanley makes sense there. I wouldn’t really want the Giants getting into a bidding war with any one of those teams, let alone a few — or even all — of them.
Sandoval is nothing worse than an upper-middle class man’s version of Hanley, and I’d guess he’d cost less money. Ramirez is intriguing because of the Dodgers connection, but I can’t see the Giants letting Sandoval go only to sign Hanley. Really, I don’t want them to.