Brandon Belt

Giants might not have room for Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval San Francisco Giants

Don’t let the slow start or his agent’s cavalier ways fool you. Pablo Sandoval is going to get paid, and he’ll probably get what he wants — a contract worth as least as much as the extension Hunter Pence signed at the end of the 2013 season. Whether Sandoval’s next lucrative contract comes from the Giants is unknown, but yesterday Brian Sabean made it sound like the chances are slim.

“We’ve given our best shot with good faith intended to try to get him signed and they’ve drawn a line in the sand that we’re not going to beat nor should we meet,” Sabean told CSN Bay Area’s Jim Kozimor on Yahoo Sportstalk Live Tuesday. “Things have been tabled and we’ll see what happens up the line, but we’re not going to have ongoing talks from this time forward.

“At this point the organization has put its best foot forward and (Sandoval’s agents) have decided it’s not to their liking, and we understand that and that’s the reason it needs to be tabled. He needs to concentrate on baseball right now. I think he might be pressing a little bit because it’s in his head one way or the other. But now it’s definitely been shut down at least for the time being. I think he needs to get on with baseball.”

The Giants want Sandoval to play well this year, because they know this could be their last chance to glean some value from his bat and glove. Because even if Gustavo Vasquez negotiated in “good faith” and Sandoval wanted with all his heart to remain in orange and black, it might not be feasible considering next year’s payroll and the emergence of another player in his 20s with an animal nickname.

Future obligations

The Giants are on the hook for $126,927,777 in 2015 … to just 12 players. If Sandoval gets the deal he’s seeking from San Francisco, they’d be on schedule to pay $145 million or so to 13 players. Throw in seven arbitration-eligible players — headlined by Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford — and the Giants are going to have a hard time keeping their payroll close to their 2014 Opening Day figure of over $154 million, even without Sandoval.

Ryan Vogelsong can probably be replaced in the 2015 starting rotation with someone who’s currently in their minor league system. But it’s not just Sandoval’s spot in the starting lineup they’d need to figure out. Michael Morse is on a one-year deal, and Marco Scutaro’s health is clearly a huge question mark.

Money isn’t a problem for San Francisco, but they’ve made it clear that — unlike the Dodgers — they’re still working with a budget. Figuring out a way to pay Sandoval “market value” and working within their preferred payroll number looks like a nearly impossible task, unless the Giants figure out a way to trade Matt Cain and his $20 million-plus salary. Good luck.

Future stars

It’s not Sandoval’s start that’s affecting the Giants’ plans, because they see that he’s pressing and they know that he’s a capable hitter. On the other hand, Belt’s start has to give them pause. If Belt blossoms into the team’s best power hitter, that takes away an option on those days when they want to give Buster Posey a bit of a break without benching him.

If the Giants want Posey to play 145 games but only catch 125, where else could they put him? That’s when we come back to the third base debate. Posey has made it clear that he’s not interested in becoming a full-time third baseman, but (and this is just an assumption) I’d imagine he’d be open to the idea of playing third base on occasion if that’s what the team needs.

If Belt had any sort of future as a part-time left fielder, we’d know that by now. Two straight Springs have gone by without the Giants even trying him out there, and he’s one of the better defensive first basemen in the league (much better than Posey). And if the Giants signed Sandoval to a deal in the $90-100 million range, there’s no way they’d consider sitting him in lieu of Posey.

Speaking of great starts, Fresno Grizzlies catcher Andrew Susac is probably the hottest hitter in the PCL right now, hitting .476 with just one strikeout in 23 at-bats. The logjam at catcher is coming, and that could also influence the Giants’ plans.

The future is still fuzzy

By no means am I saying the Giants are through with Sandoval, although Sabean’s comments were pointed and show that he’s probably sick of dealing with Team Sandoval, at least for now. The fact that the Giants have negotiated with Sandoval show that they’re interested, but they’ll need to see a fantastic season from Sandoval to consider coming close to the contract terms he’s requesting/requiring. And even if he puts up great numbers in his walk year, the Giants may look at their future obligations and options and decide to let him walk.

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