Who would have guessed that Pablo Sandoval would emerge as a legitimate trade candidate when the San Francisco Giants plucked him from the scrapheap following his release by the Red Sox?
The 32-year-old is hitting .280/.318/.561 for a 129 OPS+ while tallying 16 doubles and 10 home runs over 177 plate appearances in a part-time role.
Other teams around the league are taking notice.
According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, the veteran switch-hitter is generating interest from contenders:
"“The Giants’ front office already has received calls on Sandoval, per a source, and he comes with few strings attached. The Red Sox are paying all of Sandoval’s salary after they released him in July 2017, but the MLB minimum and his five-year deal is up at the end of the season. The Giants are quietly optimistic that the production and appealing contractual situation could bring back a solid prospect.”"
However, the current outlook of the team and the clear ceiling on what Sandoval will bring back in terms of prospect talent puts the Giants in a unique situation.
If the return isn’t significant enough, is it really worth moving one of the few players who generate some excitement for the fan base in exchange for a low-level flier?
Pavlovic raised that very point in the aforementioned article:
"“But if the proposed return isn’t all that strong, Zaidi will have a tough call to make. In an odd way, it’s easier to deal a Madison Bumgarner or Will Smith. They should bring back real help for a minor league system that needs it. The return on Sandoval could be more of a flier, in which case the Giants will need to weigh that minor boost for the future with all that Sandoval brings in 2019.The production is easy to see, but at an elementary level, the Giants simply need to give their fan base a reason to tune in over the final two months. Attendance and interest already is way down, and selling off Sandoval for a middling prospect after tearing up the bullpen and dealing Bumgarner would be a tough look. At some point, you have to give your fans something to cheer for, right?”"
While that’s a fair point, a downturn in attendance is inevitable during a rebuild.
If the Giants can acquire anything of value for Sandoval, a player they just as easily could have released in favor of Alen Hanson at the start of the season, they should not even hesitate.
Sentimentality can’t get in the way of what’s best for the team going forward, and if moving Sandoval helps the club’s long-term outlook in any way, they owe it to the fan base to make that move.
Time will tell if the San Francisco Giants find an acceptable offer. At the very least, it’s clear that other teams are interested.