Pablo Sandoval’s agent was very specific about the divide in contract talks between their side and the San Francisco Giants. Gustavo Vasquez seems both disappointed and surprised that things aren’t happening more quickly. It’s hard to blame him, because if there’s one thing the Giants have shown they’ll do in recent years, it’s give out money to their own players by the shipload.
Buster Posey. Matt Cain. Hunter Pence. Marco Scutaro. Angel Pagan. Jeremy Affeldt. Javier Lopez. Madison Bumgarner. Santiago Casilla. Tim Lincecum.
Only one of those contracts could be considered a “bargain,” and it’s hard to blame Bumgarner for accepting $35 million guaranteed at age 23.
So when the Giants say all the right things about wanting to keep Sandoval in San Francisco for the long haul, then follow up those words with a less-than-Rowand offer (as Grant Brisbee described it), that has to be disconcerting. Borderline insulting, even.
Sandoval and Vasquez aren’t the only ones who are annoyed. Those who argue the Giants should give Sandoval the same contract Pence got — if not a good deal more — have a pretty solid case.
Pence plays right field, and right fielders as good as Pence are nowhere near as scarce as third basemen in Sandoval’s class. Pence is also an athlete in his thirties who does a lot of things well, but nothing extraordinarily well compared to his peers. There aren’t 10 baseball players in the world with better hand-eye coordination than Sandoval. That’s why body composition matters less in Sandoval’s case than it does in Pence’s. Husky Pence probably isn’t a Major Leaguer. Meanwhile, Sandoval’s singular skill is so great that it’s not difficult to imagine a 45-year-old Panda turning on a 98-mph fastball. Running afterward is another story, but there are far more great runners in this world than there are hitters.
Admittedly, the stat I’m about to cite is a worse example of cherry-picking than a Reggie Miller layup … but only seven players have hit .330 with 25 homers in a season since 2009: Miguel Cabrera (three times), Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton and Sandoval, who did it when he was 22. The next youngest player on that list was Gonzalez at age 24, and the rest were between 26 and 30.
Sandoval turns 28 in August, and now he’s in shape. It’s possible he could enjoy one of those all-time kind of seasons once again, only this time it would come during his contract year. That’s why many are freaking out right now about the Giants’ lack of urgency, along with all the other reasons Sandoval has leverage.
- The Giants have money.
- It’s not our money. It was our money, but now it’s the Giants’ money.
- The best third baseman in the farm system, Ryder Jones, is 19.
- Posey wants no part of playing third base.
- Sandoval is the only third basemen scheduled to hit the market who’s under 31.
- Sandoval has star power that Pence cannot match.
However, I’m not in the camp that says the Giants are idiots for not giving Sandoval a market-value offer right now. And no, this isn’t going to turn into a montage of Scott Ostler #fatchat columns.
What if Sandoval misses 81+ games?
A lot has been made of Sandoval having both hamate bones removed, which crosses one potential injury off the list. But Sandoval went on the disabled list due to a foot strain last season. In August he missed a couple games with a sore back. Just before the 2013 season he was dealing with elbow pain. He hit the DL with a hamstring injury in 2012.
Stuff just happens to Sandoval, and weight isn’t the only cause. It probably isn’t even the main cause. Third base is a “premium position” partly because it’s a physically taxing position, one where the game’s best rarely last as long as comparable stars at other spots on the field. Scott Rolen played an average of 113 games per season from the ages of 29 to 33. The A’s gambled on Eric Chavez, and it cost them. Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright aren’t injury-prone, but they’ve each missed significant chunks of time over the last few years.
That doesn’t mean third basemen are just too risky and none deserve to be paid. However, even after losing 30 pounds or whatever, Sandoval is hardly a lock to play 140+ games in 2014. If Sandoval misses half the season due to one major injury or an assortment of DL stints, the idea that several teams would knock each other over to bust through the Giants’ qualifying offer isn’t such a sure thing.
Sandoval’s agent is just one of the many unique factors at play.
Vasquez formed his own agency in January, and Sandoval is his star client. Things seem contentious right now between the Giants and Sandoval’s camp, which is noteworthy because it’s hard to remember the last time a current player’s agent publicly complained about one of San Francisco’s offers. We didn’t hear a peep from the representatives for any of the players in the second paragraph, but all that means is we know a lot less about where/how those negotiations started.
This isn’t a knock on Vasquez. He’s in a terrific spot with a player who looks primed for a great season at the perfect time. Different agents use different tactics, and Vasquez could be handling this perfectly for all I know. But he sure told the beat writers a lot of information over the last 48 hours, which calls his motives into question. Is he playing the PR game, hoping fans and certain members of the media apply enough pressure to force the team’s hand? Is Vasquez dead-set on having Sandoval test the market, both to maximize his top client’s earning potential and to show prospective clients that he’s an up-and-coming agent they should consider? Does Sandoval even want to re-sign with the Giants at all?
One also wonders whether the Giants — who seem to have an old school approach when it comes to their business dealings — were put off by Vasquez either at some point earlier during the negotiations or after he called their preliminary offer of three years and $40 million “crazy.”
There’s so much we don’t know, from Sandoval’s production and health in 2014 to how these interpersonal dealings are progressing, that making a blanket “pay the man” or “let him walk” statement at this point is oversimplifying things. Sandoval isn’t Posey, Cain, Lincecum, Pagan or Pence. Sandoval is a player who’s unique in every way — skill set, personality, path to the big leagues, position, body type, you name it. That’s why, if Sandoval is to remain a Giant after this season, the extension both sides agree upon will come about in a completely different manner than we’ve seen before.