The San Francisco Giants are going to face the difficult challenge of presumably trying to retain third baseman Pablo Sandoval this offseason. If general manager Brian Sabean isn’t granted a sizable increase in future payroll from the club’s board of investors, the NL West-rival Los Angeles Dodgers could become the Panda’s most logical suitor.
For the Giants, that might seem like the worst thing imaginable in free agency, but the orange and black already owe more than $127 million to just 13 players for the 2015 season, not including arbitration salaries owed to Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.
Sabean, the longest-tenured GM in baseball, has tough decisions to make this offseason, especially regarding Sandoval.
The Giants remain in playoff contention, but changes are coming. Sandoval will be the Giants’ most talked about free agent concern this offseason, and perhaps beforehand, but the club also faces uncertainty at shortstop and left field. They must also bolster their bench in addition to potentially adding another starting pitcher if they’re going to legitimately become a championship contender in the near future.
The Giants’ annual payroll has steadily increased by approximately $13.25 million on a year-by-year basis since 2008. If that figure remains consistent, the Giants’ 2015 team payroll be roughly $162 million, which means Sabean would have just $35 million leftover to sign at least 12 players before reaching his spending cap.
Sandoval would be nearly impossible for the Giants to re-sign if he commands an initial salary exceeding $15 million during the first year of his new contract. Sandoval’s representation will have leverage in free-agent negotiations, considering that he’ll be the only premiere player at his position available on the open market.
The Giants won’t be the only team trying to sign Sandoval this winter, to say the least. The rival Dodgers aren’t in dire need of another third baseman, given the relative productivity of Sandoval’s former teammate, Juan Uribe, who owns a solid .293 batting average with six home runs and 35 RBIs in 319 plate appearances this year, and is under contract for next year.
But Los Angeles will be aggressive in trying to add as much perennial talent as possible — as they’ve proven in recent seasons — especially if they fail to win the National League pennant this season. The Dodgers’ supposed attempt to attain Sandoval would be devastating to Giants fans, but it’s not an irrational possibility.
Sandoval will be swayed by whichever team makes him the best offer. There will be no hometown discounts. The hungry Panda made that clear when he turned down the Giants’ modest three-year, $40 million offer during Spring Training.