Pablo Sandoval

Modeling a potential contract for Pablo Sandoval


So “data journalism” is a pretty cool thing these days with the launch of Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight, so I thought being the stat guy for BASG that I should jump in and try this thing out and use some data to model what the market for Pablo Sandoval might look like.

Luckily for me, some of the hardest work has already been tackled; Dave Cameron at Fangraphs ran a regression for free agents signed in 2014 came out with an equation that can be used to estimate contract values based on forecasted WAR. Not being one that likes the reinvent the wheel, this model should provide a nice framework to work within.

The first step in figuring this out is to go out is to forecast Sandoval’s WAR into the future. For this I turned to Oliver, (which is available on Fangraphs), PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus, and finally Dan Szymborski was nice enough to run the numbers through ZiPS and give me the forecast. Oliver projections only cover the next five seasons so to cover 2019 to 2021 I estimated a 20% decline from the season before.

Year Age Oliver PECOTA ZiPS
2015 28 2.9 2.2 3.2
2016 29 2.6 2.9 3.1
2017 30 2.4 2.7 2.9
2018 31 2.2 1.7 2.5
2019 32 1.7 2.5 2.1
2020 33 1.4 1.4 1.6
2021 34 1.1 1.2 1.2
Total 14.3 14.6 16.6


With that we can then translate these projection’s into forecasted WAR over different lengths of contracts.

Deal Length Oliver WAR PECOTA WAR ZiPS Average
7 14 15 17 15
6 13 13 15 14
5 12 12 14 13
4 10 10 12 10
3 8 8 9 8


The next step is to take the forecasted WAR and plug it into Cameron’s regression equation (8.6872 x forecasted WAR – 8.5817) for estimating the value of free agent contracts. That gives us the following:

Deal Length Oliver WAR PECOTA WAR ZiPS Average
7 $116 $118 $136 $123
6 $106 $108 $125 $113
5 $94 $96 $111 $100
4 $79 $74 $93 $82
3 $60 $59 $71 $64


Based on these forecasts, Sandoval would have expected a pretty healthy payday on the open market this winter. If the reports of the Giants only offering three years and $40 million are true, they are expecting a very large hometown discount from Sandoval. If it’s also true that Sandoval’s camp was asking for a deal in the five-year, $90 million range, that’s a very reasonable estimate and maybe even a little low as a starting point in a contract negotiation.

There are a number of caveats that need to be made, along with missing information that is not taken into account with this model. The issues include: his age, weight, injury issues, positional scarcity at third base, the lack of internal options to replace him and his work ethic. Many of these were covered by Steve in yesterday’s post he wrote about Sandoval’s contract situation.

The potential big one that isn’t included is what a qualifying offer might do to his value if he waits until next season to sign. We have already seen this new wrinkle really change the markets for middle-tier free agents over the past two winters and Sandoval could end up in that camp if he underperforms or gets injured this season.

With all of the above taken into account, if the Giants want to make a deal to keep Sandoval they will need to come a lot closer to the numbers that the model suggests. Giants management might not be comfortable spending that much, but if they want to keep their third baseman they’ll need to pay up.

While we wait for a resolution, we’ll always have fans who call KNBR to keep us entertained:

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