After gagging a 9.5-game division lead over the NL West-nemesis Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants face the unfathomable reality of potentially becoming sellers at the 2014 trade deadline. At 42-21, the Giants were the hands-down best team in baseball. Since then, the Giants have achieved the unthinkable: a 5-18 tailspin that could motivate general manager Brian Sabean to trade a few key pieces in attempt to revitalize a dormant farm system, namely Pablo Sandoval.
It wouldn’t necessarily be unwise for the Giants to at least field phone calls on potential deals involving Sandoval. The fan-favorite third baseman was a pivotal part of the Giants’ 2012 World Series team, but has consistently battled weight problems that have frustrated team management. Sandoval’s numbers have also been in steady decline since 2011. Even though Sandoval’s run production hasn’t taken a cataclysmic dive, his OPS has steadily diminished on a year-to-year basis for three consecutive seasons.
The Giants consider themselves contenders, despite relinquishing a division lead that some national writers had dubbed untouchable. San Francisco’s ability to earn a playoff spot, whether it be a division crown or Wild Card berth, hinges entirely on if lead-off hitter Angel Pagan can come back healthy enough to make a difference. The 33-year-old veteran has sought help from a specialist in regard to a bulging disc in his lower back and could be facing surgery.
Sandoval will become a free agent this winter for the first time in his big league career and is reportedly seeking a deal in excess of $90 million. Sabean would have to admit mental health problems if he were to sign the seven-year veteran to a multi-year contract of that magnitude. Sandoval, despite his enormous successes, is realistically worth less than half of what his representation is supposedly asking for.
Sandoval is the type of player who will consistently record 15 home runs and 70-plus RBI in a given season. He’s a solid ball player who flaunts an underrated glove-hand at the hot corner, in part because of his hefty physique. But the Giants cannot conceivably present a Hunter Pence-esque offer sheet to a guy who clearly isn’t as good as he used to be.
Trading Sandoval would spur a Matt Williams-like reaction among Giants fans. On the surface, it would signal waving the white flag despite being tied in the loss column with the Dodgers. Sabean famously stated, “I’m not stupid,” when dealing Williams in 1996 in a deal that brought the Giants Hall of Fame-worthy second baseman Jeff Kent.
The Giants lost 94 games in ’96 and finished in last place in the West. That doesn’t figure to be the case in 2014, but it’s undeniable that Sandoval is the team’s best trade chip. It’s also highly unlikely for the Giants to re-sign the “Kung Fu Panda” to the outlandish mega-deal he reportedly seeks. It makes sense to acquire something of value in return for Sandoval now rather than simply letting him walk at the end of what appears to be another disappointing season in San Francisco.