San Francisco Giants: What’s next for second baseman Joe Panik?

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 31: Joe Panik #12 of the San Francisco Giants scores against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 31, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 31: Joe Panik #12 of the San Francisco Giants scores against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 31, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

After the San Francisco Giants acquired Scooter Gennett and Mauricio Dubon at the trade deadline, the future is hazy for incumbent second baseman Joe Panik.

Joe Panik has been the San Francisco Giants starting second baseman since arriving on the scene in 2014 when he finished sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Now it looks like the Giants are ready to turn the page.

After four productive seasons, Panik has seen his production drop off precipitously since the beginning of last year. A lack of internal replacement options may have been the only thing keeping him in the lineup this year, and now that has changed.

How bad has Panik been this year?

Around the Foghorn site expert Joel Reuter wrote the following while calling for the San Francisco Giants to find a replacement at second base in the middle of July:

"The biggest culprit has obviously been starter Joe Panik, who is hitting a punchless .231/.308/.313 with 19 extra-base hits in 357 plate appearances.That adds up to a 68 OPS+, which means he’s producing 32 percent below a league-average rate offensively. That ranks 154th among the 155 hitters who have tallied enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title."

Those numbers have not changed much in the few weeks since that article was written. He’s now hitting .232/.307/.315 with 21 extra-base hits in 379 plate appearances for an identical 68 OPS+.

In their first deal of a busy deadline day yesterday, the Giants flipped relievers Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Mauricio Dubon, a young, MLB-ready middle infielder who was playing at Triple-A.

Later in the day, they also made a deal for another second baseman when they acquired 2018 All-Star Scooter Gennett from the Cincinnati Reds. Details are still pending but it was a roll of the dice in hopes he can return to his previous form in exchange for cash considerations or a PTBNL.

Those moves are bad news for the current second baseman.

Like Panik, Gennett is a left-handed hitter, and while he’s still shaking off the rust after missing considerable time to a groin injury, he’s just a year removed from batting .310/.357/.490 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI. He’s started to show signs of life lately with a .308 average and three RBI in his last seven games.

At the very least, he seems poised to take over a platoon role with Donovan Solano as long as he continues producing, which leaves Panik as the odd-man-out.

Gennett is a free agent at season’s end, while Panik still has one year of arbitration remaining, so that has to be factored into the team’s plans as well.

The wild card here is Dubon.

The 25-year-old is now the most likely long-term answer to be Brandon Crawford’s double-play partner in the near future. He’s hitting .297/.333/.475 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs at Triple-A this year and he’s seen some brief MLB action as well.

What helps make the case for Dubon is that he is also an inexpensive replacement that boasts team control until 2024. If Gennett is not in the Giants long-term plans, Dubon could be looked at as the potential starter for 2020.

The question now is what happens to Joe Panik?

The Giants will have a roster crunch on their hands once Gennett joins the team, though no decision has been made to this point:

Due to Panik’s great play at an early age, he still has one minor league option left. However, since he has surpassed five years of MLB experience, he would have to accept an assignment to Triple-A Sacramento.

Meanwhile, Solano has thrived in a part-time role with a .333 average and an .817 OPS in 46 games. He’s out of minor league options and would likely be scooped up by a contender on waivers if he were designated.

Given his poor play of late, Panik may be willing to accept a minor league assignment in an effort to rebuild some value and play his way back onto the active roster. Regardless, he’s likely to be non-tendered during the offseason, so his time in San Francisco appears to be winding to a close.

With Gennett set to join the team on Friday for the Giants upcoming series against the Colorado Rockies, a decision on Panik’s future will need to be made sooner rather than later.

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It would appear that team president Farhan Zaidi is looking at a future that does not include the 2014 World Series champion. If he’s comfortable that these recent moves have solidified the second base position, Panik’s days in a San Francisco Giants uniform could be numbered.