Brandon Belt

Giants might not have room for Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval San Francisco Giants 2014

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.


Some additional points this article didn't cover.

First, Bochy said in the off-season that Belt would be playing 1B full-time, with a few days off, around 150 games, and that Posey will not be getting as many starts at 1B as he had in previous years, that they are shooting for around 140 starts as catcher.  Plans do change but I have not heard any from Bochy in the meanwhile.  So Belt's great hitting didn't change Bochy's plans, he was already planning on playing him a lot at 1B.

Second, every team works from a budget, even the Dodgers.  That they have a multi-billionaire who is willing to raise the player payroll early in his ownership to jumpstart what was a moribund operations was a move that he picked up from his neighbor billionaire who owns the Angels, but eventually they have also had to back off from the spending and starting driving free cash flow (until they got their big cable contract).  LAD will eventually have to do that as well, but with $150M coming from cable, they can spend much more money than the Giants can, who gets much less from their cable deal currently.  

The Giants, already being in a good position, don't need to run losses now anyway in order to win, now they just have to sustain that level of talent.  Plus, they are already 6th in payroll, so they are already spending commensurate (or close enough) with the size of their population base.  And they clearly are willing to add at least $13.3M to the payroll already, since that was their offer to Pablo and he turned them down, so they are willing to increase the budget and significantly at that.  Plus, that's only adding $5-6M to the current payroll, as Sandoval's already making $8-9M this season.

The issue, it seems to me, is not that they are unwilling to spend money, but that Pablo hasn't proven to them that he deserves the money that he's asking for.  Part of their reasoning, it seems to me, is that his demands are not in line with the market.  My research has found that he's asking to be the second highest paid 3B in baseball, better than Longoria, Wright or Zimmerman, and he hasn't even come close to their career production in similar number of years.  Getting fit over the winter won't make up for that huge gap.

And the irony is that if he had simply kept himself in the shape he was in 2011 and played at that level since then, he would have been deserving of all that money and maybe more.  He's the one who screwed up.  Because the Giants offered salary, as insulting as his agent made it out to be, would have made him him the 5th highest paid 3B in the game today, behind only A-Rod and the three above, and far ahead of the next guy, Prado.  That's still a great salary for a 3B in today's baseball, hardly insulting.  

It was that comment that made me think that Sandoval's agent is a novice at his job, who says that publicly in negotiations that you want to continue?  That's insulting plus he revealed what the Giants offered, something Sabean hates.  My belief right now is that for most of the next off-season, and perhaps into spring training, he'll still be a free agent with a QO, because of his high demands.  He'll probably have to sign a one year deal with someone, much like Aurilia had to do when he had his high demands, that's how I see him returning to the Giants, who could use a 3B in 2015.

Third, Posey didn't say that he's not interested in becoming a full-time 3B, he said that while his passion is to stay behind the plate, if management thought that moving him to another position would give the Giants a better change to win, he's open to it.    He loves catching but he's made it clear that he's aware of the downside of catching, stating that he would not allow his children to be catchers.  So when the time comes and the Giants want to move him, it sounds like he'll be open to it because him being healthy and able to hit is a key to our best chances of winning, and if catching is getting in the way of that, he sounds like he would move.  

The problem prior and still, is that we have nobody adequate for replacing Posey.   I believe that's why Posey has been hesitant to say anything, what is the use of talking about his future change if there is no one to take his place adequately behind the plate?  Susac is looking good for changing that equation, but he needs to do that over a full season plus show good defense before the Giants are going to switch to him at catcher.  BA still notes that he has work to do defensively, but has the tools to eventually be above average.  

Let's say it takes him 2014 to establish himself, 2015 to show that he's ready, then Posey would be 29 YO for 2016 season, approximately when position players are just reaching their physical peak, so at that point, he could move to 3B and be the full-time starter there with Susac taking over.  Plus, Hanchez has been developing himself, so there is that alternative should Susac falter somewhere along the way.  Perhaps they could share the position, with Bochy going with the hot bat or to gain key matchups.

The question in this scenario is then:  who plays 3B in 2015?  Obviously, if Sandoval signs, he probably is playing there.  Or if he bolts, we could sign the Mike Morse 3B version for 2015, in anticipation of Posey moving over, by then, we should have a better idea of where Susac is in his development.  Or if Scutaro is healthy enough, he could play 3B if there is someone ready to start at 2B after this long audition (Hicks in the lead for now).  And Arias is great defensively at 3B, so they should be able to carry his bat in 2015 if Crawford can consistently hit like he has all through 2014.  

Fourth, the Giants are fine with Belt in LF.  If they weren't, they would not have pursued Abreu to the point of just missing signing him as they offered the same contract as the ChiSox, but with 6 years not 7, as that would mean that Belt would be starting in LF instead.   He played OF when he was an amateur, and while he gets lots of rave comments about his defense at 1B, for some reason that has not been translating to the advanced defensive metrics, so him playing LF is not out of the question, I feel.

Lastly, I would add that I was disappointed that Belt was not signed to a long term deal this off-season.  Though perhaps that was because his side wanted to see what he could do this season before committing long-term, which I would understand.   He could be getting a big deal, Posey-lite, next off-season, if he continues to hit this well, and that might, to the author's point, make Sandoval too expensive to keep.


The Giants have had Arias lanquishing on the bench as a utility player. Let Pablo go, play Joaquin until you can land a good hitting 3rd basement. Pablo is not going to help the Giants this year and these contract woes are entrenched in his head.. 


I'm no expert ... but I suspect it doesn't bode well for the G-Men's hopes of striking a reasonable deal that Pablo is by far the biggest and highest-profile client of an agent, the aforementioned Gus Vasquez, that

1) recently started his own agency

2) is far from a household name, and 

3) whose next highest-profile client - Sal Perez of the Royals - is arguably best known for signing that super early extension with 3 team options, which is increasingly considered one of the most team-friendly contracts in the game.


It never helps that he's by far the highest-profile client of a guy who recently 


All the Giants have to do is raise ticket, beer and parking prices.  That way, Pablo can get paid and ownership can maintain their profit margins!  Together (our team, your money) We're Giants!


1) There is no room for Sandoval?  Is he that big now?  maybe just get him a bigger locker and stool.  Or maybe one of those recliners?

2) Yes, the 2014 Opening Day figure is about $154 million.  But that is not a cap and should not be treated as a cap.  This is the sort of thinking that goes against what the Giants did in 2010 and 2012.

3) I do not see Posey becoming a full time 3rd baseman.  But I do see Belt progressing and eventually taking over for Pablo in the lineup.  I think Belt can be ready for that spot in the future.  As far as defense, I think you can just slide Crawford over to 3rd base....maybe even letting crawford start some games at 3rd base this year.



Not sure I agree. If they let Sandoval go, Posey wouldn't have to be open to playing "some" third base, as the Giants would not have a third baseman. I am not sure Sabean wants to rely on a plan that shifts his very valuable catcher to third base and bring in Susac to replace him. At least not next year. That's why I think he only offered 3 years to begin with. 

Honestly if Sandoval only wants 5 years, I do not think it's crazy to go that long with him. By then you should know where Posey is going to have to be to take care of him, if his knees are holding up from catching, etc.


Just to play devil's advocate a bit, according to Forbes and Bloomberg the Giants are not hurting for money, they have the Wealthiest owner in all of baseball. Plus the trajectory of baseball revenues seems to be going in a very good direction for the medium term.

If they want to have him on the team money really shouldn't be an issue in not being able to keep him around.

The other stuff is all valid, but it does open a hole at third base that might not be exactly easy to fill if he isn't here in the future.


@T  Bochy has said it twice now, with no mention of any other spot, and it makes sense:  it's not as dangerous as 2B physically, and he's still above average hitter there, while at 1B, he's merely average.  Posey is moving to 3B eventually, I would bet on it.

Belt has already progressed and surpassed Pablo, did you not see his 2013 season?  He's already ready.

Crawford at 3B is an interesting option, as that would open up SS for Adrianza.  With Crawford hitting better, that could work, he has the power to do nicely there.  But I think Posey's there eventually, so I was thinking Crawford at 2B, he would still be plus offensively there and even better defensively.  


@T  It makes zero sense to move Crawford to 3rd base. His value comes primarily from the fact that he's a fantastic defensive SS. Moving him to 3B absolutely destroys that value.

Bay Area Sports Guy
Bay Area Sports Guy moderator

@Scout6  To your first point, I think Brian Sabean believes he can patch together an answer at third base for 2015, especially if Posey can play 20 games there. I agree that they'd rather not shift him there full-time, which would diminish Posey's overall value. But Posey has started 45 games at first base over the last two seasons, and if Belt is the real deal (which I believe he is), that shouldn't be an option. 

My main point, which I sort of touched on in my response to Stats Guy, is that the post above isn't what I necessarily think the Giants should do. But considering Sabean's comments last night, their payroll and "budget," along with their personnel, I'm feeling less confident than ever that the Giants will extend Pablo. BUT, I still think there's a chance both sides reach some sort of agreement. A lot can change between now and the end of the season.


@BAStatsGuy  The issue isn't annual payroll budget money:  they've already offered him $13.3M on average already, going to $18M isn't breaking the bank for them if they think he's worth it.

The problem is that he's asking for a lot more AAV money, basically paying him as the premier 3B of the majors (except for A-Rod) when he hasn't done that yet.  People seem to think that AL teams will throw money at him just because they can DH him.  True, they will probably offer more years, but they won't necessarily give him more than the $13.3M AAV that the Giants have already offered, that's already putting him as the 5th best 3B in the majors and frankly, he's been so injury prone, he's barely produce that on a WAR basis except in 2009 and 2011, which is a pretty long ago, which his agent don't seem to realize.  

The agent is putting Pablo in a bad situation going into the off-season if the starting point is Pence's deal, teams probably are willing to go 5 years on him, but $18M vs. $13.3M is probably a deal breaker for most teams.  Some think the Yankees are signing him, but they already got A-Rod returning next season, if I got the suspension timing right.  They need a shortstop (Hanley?  Make it so!)

This reminds me of the bonehead play that Aurilia's agent did, asking for a huge deal and the Giants let him go and moved on, and they waited so long that he ended up signing a cheap deal with the Mariners, in an "earn it" season, and when he flopped, he just got a series of those types of deal.  His agent probably could have gotten a nice long-term deal at a lower AAV from the Giants had they been more reasonable and negotiated instead of aiming for the Sun.

Which, to me, Pablo's agent did, reminds me of other athletes who hire a buddy or relative to be their agent, and it becomes a screwed up affair, meanwhile, he has a bunch of "yes" men fluffing him up, "yeah, you're the World Series MVP and former All-Star, you deserve a lot of money, like Pence!"  He'll be sitting with no deal by next spring training, much like I-Rod did before he signed with the Marlins.  If he's lucky, the Giants wouldn't have moved on yet, but Sabean don't like an open spot with no strong prospect looking ready to move up, so I doubt it.

Bay Area Sports Guy
Bay Area Sports Guy moderator

I'm well aware of the team's ability to pay him. In addition to the Forbes number, they're finished paying off the debt service on the park after 2017, plus there's Mission Rock.

I'm assessing what the Giants will probably do based on recent history and the messaging they've been consistent with for several years.


@Bay Area Sports Guy @Scout6  Oh, that was the impression I got too, that it was your opinion.

I agree that it's not too late for either side, but if Pablo's side sticks to their Pence demand, Pablo better start hitting like it's 2009 if he wants that much money, because that was Sabean's point, based on past history and market precedence, Pablo is worth around the 3 years, $40M deal he was offered.  That puts him 5th most in the majors for 3B, almost middle in-between the big three and Prado, who is making $10M AAV.

Normal negotiations would have brought the two sides together and the Giants probably would have been happy with 4 years, $60M ($15M AAV), as that would put him just behind Longoria, Wright, Zimmerman, deals, which is just about the right place for Pablo, given what he has done so far in his career, probably a little too high, but it's a leap of faith the Giants would be taking there to sign him, much like Lincecum's deal.

Had he watched his weight this whole time instead of now, when he's fighting for a big contract, and played like he did in 2011, he could and should be asking for Pence as a base contract plus a little something something on the side.  It would have been a no-brainer.  

Instead, he got fat again, then had the nerve to say last off-season that he had two years to get fit again for his next contract, meaning screw the Giants for the next two (13-14) seasons.  I guess his agent finally got him to realize that he needed to get his act together BEFORE the 2014 season, and that's been his transformation since.  Who's to say he won't fall back again once he signs his big contract, he showed zero interest in earning the roughly $15M that the Giants were paying him for 2013-2014.  

So I don't believe when people say he's going to get signed easily by another team, the other teams are going to be hesitant already because of the above (remember, even without the hamate bones, he's missed a lot of time for other injuries too, plus ate himself out of the starting lineup), his behavior up to now, and his comment, plus his performance in 2012-2013 hasn't been that good, certainly not enough to warrant Pence's $18M AAV, but certainly good enough for something in the low to mid-teens.  It's one thing if you are a gamer like Elsbury, with higher peak seasons because of his defense, and doing that in recent seasons, and not like Sandoval, who hasn't done it since 2011.  This is a "prove it" year and he's going to need to shine if he wants the money.

The only silver lining I would add is that given all the walks he getting now, he's been working on adjusting his approach to hitting and that's interfering with him in his at-bats.  Once he gets that into muscle memory, he'll probably start hitting like he can and did before.  But it took Torres a whole season to learn his new mechanics, and Pablo don't have that much time....


The Giants could raise the payroll but probably won't go crazy. When all is said and done they probably chose Pence over Pablo.

Bay Area Sports Guy
Bay Area Sports Guy moderator

@BAStatsGuy  They'll definitely expand the payroll every year as long as the economy doesn't tank again. But I think we'll see increases in the neighborhood of 10% annually at the most.

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