When longtime SF Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval became a free agent for the first time after 2014, many fans did not want him to leave San Francisco. It turns out that Sandoval regrets spurning the Giants to sign a five-year, $95 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.
What if Pablo Sandoval did not leave the SF Giants in free agency after 2014?
Joseph Bien-Kahn of GQ Magazine had an exclusive interview with the longtime Giants infielder, who detailed the decision he made nearly a decade ago. Sandoval admitted that it was a regrettable decision, but one he grew from:
""I should have stayed. I know. I learned my lesson. But I’m happy I went through it, man, because I kept my eyes open and learned a lot of things.”"- Pablo Sandoval
This is a move that has been dissected by writers in both markets. However, what would have been an interesting parallel universe is the Giants' moves that might not have happened if the switch-hitter stayed with the organization. I have highlighted some of those moves below:
-Traded Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo for Casey McGehee -Include Matt Duffy in the trade for Matt Moore -Sign one of Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, or Mark Melancon
The Casey McGehee trade immediately became regrettable. The Giants were looking for a veteran third baseman to fill the void created by Sandoval and McGehee was one of the few options available.
The Giants traded both Flores and Castillo to the Miami Marlins to acquire the third baseman. Neither one was considered a legitimate prospect at the time of the trade, but Castillo quickly emerged as one of the top pitchers in the National League.
This move was directly correlated to Sandoval signing with the Red Sox, so it would not have happened if he stayed in San Francisco. Would the Giants have traded Flores or Castillo in another move later on? That is certainly possible.
This trade led to the emergence of Matt Duffy. McGehee struggled to the tune of a .213/.275/.299 line (59 OPS+) with two home runs, 11 RBI, and seven runs in 138 plate appearances. The veteran third baseman was let go by San Francisco midway through the 2015 season due in part to the surprising emergence of Duffy.
In his rookie season, Duffy registered a .295/.334/.428 line (108 OPS+) with 12 home runs, 77 RBI, and 77 runs in 612 plate appearances. Would Duffy have become the centerpiece of the trade to acquire Matt Moore with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016?
It is possible, especially considering that Joe Panik missed time at the end of 2015 with a back injury. However, Duffy would not have received the same workload that allowed him to flourish that year if Sandoval remained with San Francisco.
Lastly, the Giants became aggressive spenders in free agency after Sandoval departed. They reeled in Jeff Samardzija (five years, $90 million), Johnny Cueto (six years, $130 million), and Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million).
San Francisco flirted with the luxury tax in 2017 and 2018 as a result of this spending and they operated under the premise that the tax was a hard cap. There were consequences for exceeding it and the Giants worked to stay under the limit. That said, they did exceed the luxury tax in 2017.
Would San Francisco have been able to sign all three of those free agents if Sandoval stayed with a contract that was worth $100 million? It is not likely, meaning that one of Samardzija, Cueto, or Melancon would not have put on a Giants uniform. None of these contracts performed well, so the Giants probably do not gain anything from this contingency if Sandoval stayed.
On a different note, it is possible that the Giants never trade for Evan Longoria after the 2017 season. Sandoval reunited with San Francisco midway through 2017, so his presence on the roster did not alter the front office's plans.
That said, if Duffy was still with the organization at the time, it seems even less likely that they deal for the longtime Tampa Bay Rays third baseman.
Of course, there are a bunch of different permutations of events that might have occurred if Sandoval stayed after 2014. We will never truly know, but it hurt many Giants fans when he signed with Boston. For many reasons, it is a move that still stings today.