Pablo Sandoval's departure a Giant mistake, but not his
By JON ALBA
College Contributor Network
I often try to think critically when a big free agent switches ships. I try to analyze what the deciding factors are in said player's decision to move, alongside looking deeply at the contractual figures that may have enticed them to make the jump.
It also often begs the question: could, and should, the team which attempted to retain the player have done more?
I won't pose as a member of the San Francisco Giants organization, or claim to have any idea of the inner workings of general manager Brian Sabean. But on the outside, the decision to let Pablo Sandoval leave resonates on levels that go beyond the playing field.
Monday, Sandoval came to terms with the Boston Red Sox on a five-year, $100 million deal. The kind of contract that puts someone in the upper-tier of ballplayers, on a recognized scale, and with that, brings expectations. And it preaches the merits of capitalism that we seem to desire so badly here in the United States.
Last week, it was noted at length there is a saturated market for free agents in Major League Baseball this off-season. Sandoval, as mentioned, falls in the upper-echelon (in this writer's humble opinion), of those deserving of a sizable contract. And it's not just his success that merits the deal, but also the decision to move beyond San Francisco.
I have long held an ideology in sports regarding players and championships. If someone plays some sort of role in leading a team to a title, they have done their job. With that ring, they withhold the right to, at next opportunity, follow the money to the next place they feel they can do the same thing.
It's the reason why Cardinals fans, who received two World Series championships under the guidance and performance of Albert Pujols, were unjustified to put hate towards his decision to head to Los Angeles. And to a lesser degree, I would even argue the same for Robinson Cano and the New York Yankees (though that could become an entirely different "vast difference in pay" quarrel).
Sandoval didn't win one World Series with the Giants. He won three, and in that time, established himself among the best postseason players in the history of baseball. Following the World Series, in which he hit .429, it was made clear: the man was deserving of a massive contract.
Those bashing "Kung Fu Panda" for chasing the money are wrong, and there is no justification to hold a grudge.
Let's turn the finger instead to the San Francisco Giants. And some fans haven't hid from doing so.
The source for anger towards the Giants' end of the spectrum is understandable, but for different reasons. Reports indicate the team offered Sandoval what was essentially an identical offer to that of the Red Sox plus a club option, which also discredits the ideology that "Panda" left to take more money.
@JonAlbaSFC their unwillingness to give anyone money is getting outrageous. With no 3B in the system this one hurts- Daniel Grosso (@Daniel_Grosso) November 24, 2014
Instead, the anger should lay in principle. The Giants' biggest mistake was not letting Sandoval leave in free agency, but instead, letting him hit free agency in the first place.
To play devil's advocate, it is important to understand his track record. The 28-year-old has struggled with weight issues throughout his career, with his official listed frame currently at 245 pounds. His shelf-life as a third baseman may be limited because of this, which is why a move to the American League should work in his favor. His lone All-Star years, 2011 and 2012, saw him play in less than 120 games. His power numbers have seemed to have plateaued in the lower double-digits. There is a cause for concern in giving him a long-term deal.
But is five years still considered a long-term deal at this point?
Not to mention, his postseason performances cannot be ignored. Sandoval has hit above .300 in five of 10 playoff series in his career, six if you count a possible outlier in this past year's National League Wild Card Game where he went two-for-four. That kind of player rarely comes along, and the Giants have a team that, with Sandoval, had the recipe for postseason success. Not to mention, he was beloved by the entire Giants fan base.
The newest rumblings indicate Sandoval felt slighted by the Giants when he was low-balled on a contract-extension offer last off-season. The idea, which many teams such as the Yankees rolled the dice on, is if the player has a down contract year, their contractual value decreases and they become easier to sign. Without question, the third World Series title adds an enormous amount of value and credibility to his package, but with 2014 numbers that were nearly identical to those in 2013, the Giants took a gamble in hoping they could avoid having to dish out the dough for their former third baseman.
They rolled snake eyes.
Some of the hesitance is understandable. The team has years and money committed to superstars Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. The $127.5 million-extension given to Matt Cain has seemingly busted to this point, with him posting arguably the worst numbers of his career over the course of the past two seasons. Yet, there was willingness to give the oft-injured Angel Pagan a sizable deal when he commanded it. So where is the love for the "Panda?"
San Francisco will now take the money it had planned to commit to Sandoval and spend it elsewhere. It could bring in a collection of middle-of-the-line players to help fill the gap at third. Or it may allow them to sign another big name, along the lines of the now-Bay-area-familiar Jon Lester. At least the pitching would be there.
As for Sandoval, he should, in theory, flourish in Boston. He should do what Adrian Gonzalez couldn't during his short tenure at Fenway. And perhaps, with the inconsistency of the AL East, he could get a fourth ring out of it.
Though if the clocks could have been turned back a year, before the third World Series parade, before the final pop-out on the third base side, it may have been beneficial. San Francisco could have realized "Panda Watch" was as serious as Ron Burgundy warned us it was.
Jon Alba is a senior at Quinnipiac University. There he serves as general manager of the school's television station, Q30 Television. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAlbaSFC