Pablo Sandoval to Boston: The best deal the San Francisco Giants never made
This season has not been an easy ride for the San Francisco Giants: Casey McGehee was an unmitigated disaster, Hunter Pence has been injured as often as not, and Mike Leake has been effective, but not the game-changer that the Giants needed. However, without question the smartest decision that Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean and Giants front office made this season was the deal they didn’t make.
Pablo Sandoval has been the definition of mediocre for the Boston Red Sox this year despite signing a 5 year, $95 million contract over the offseason. He has an extremely pedestrian slash line of .247/.294/.376. His numbers are down across the board despite having gone from playing in one of the worst hitters parks to one of the best.
Moreover, Sandoval’s replacement in San Francisco has been better in about every way than the Panda. Matt Duffy is very much in the discussion for NL Rookie of the Year as a result of the inspired season he’s having. Duffy leads Sandoval in almost every metric from on-base percentage (.338 to .294) to stolen bases (8 to 0) to RBI (61 to 44). Most importantly, Matt Duffy’s WAR (wins above average replacement) is an excellent 3.9, while Sandoval’s WAR is -0.7, meaning that Sandoval has actually been slightly worse than the league average.
Call to the Pen
The Giants were most worried about losing Sandoval’s power, and with good reason. The Giants rank 12th in the National League in home runs and they would be even lower if their ace wasn’t on putting up Ruthian numbers. For what it’s worth, Sandoval and Duffy are in a dead heat for home runs with 10.
But keep in mind that Duffy is costing the Giants $509,000 this season—just over the league minimum.
Finally, Sandoval’s weight cannot be ignored. Body shaming is a loathsome reflection of our society and it should be fought in almost every instance. The exception is when an athlete is being paid ungodly sums of money to perform at their highest level and their weight directly affects their ability. Sandoval is bigger than ever—255 pounds to be exact—and his play is suffering as a consequence.
Not signing Sandoval will have positive ramifications for the seasons to come. Sandoval will turn 30 next year, and with his history of weight issues, it is unlikely he will reverse course. By 2019, the Red Sox could be spending nearly $19 million for a mediocre to downright awful player. In contrast, Duffy, who is only 23, is under team control for the next five years. Duffy was still playing in the minors a little more than a year ago so, assuming this season isn’t a fluke, he likely will improve on the already outstanding season he is having.
Evans and Sabean cannot take much credit for their good fortune at third base this year. The Giants reportedly made Sandoval almost the same offer as the Red Sox, yet he chose to take his talents to Boston. They could not possibly have predicted how Duffy—an 18th rounder who never cracked any top-ten prospect lists—could have become the budding super star that he is.
With the Giants’ playoff hopes fading fast, their unlikely third base situation is perhaps the team’s most positive development of the season.