Foxsports.com is reporting that the Pablo Sandoval sweepstakes are over: even though the Padres apparently offered him more money, the former 2012 World Series MVP is going to Boston.
What should our reaction be? On the one hand, Padre fans should breathe a collective sigh of relief. On the other hand, there are two reasons to be concerned.
A Sigh of Relief
Would Sandoval have helped the Padres? Let’s put it this way: he would have represented an immediate upgrade over what they have right now at third base (i.e., a couple of otherwise utility infielders in Yongervis Solarte and Corey Spangenberg).
However, “Panda” would not have been much more than that–especially at $100 million over five years. The fact is, his numbers really aren’t that great. His best season was in 2009, when he slashed .330/.387/.556 with a .943 OPS, including 70 runs scored, 45 doubles, 25 home runs, and 90 RBI.
To repeat, those numbers represent career highs. He might have been worth what the Padres were offering if these were his average numbers, but not since they represent his high-water marks.
In the five years since, he has averaged 16 home runs, 70 RBI, and a .283/.336/.442 slash. In two of the last five years (’11 and ’13), he missed over 40 games.
Suffice to say, the fact that he was offered as much money as he was, was not nearly so much a reflection on his talent as it was on the dearth of available third basemen on the market. The only other such free agent is Chase Headley, whom the Padres parted with in July. And just as an aside, Headley is a far better fielder than Sandoval.
I haven’t even mentioned Sandoval’s girth, which concerns a lot of scouts: how much longer will he hold up? Guys who are heavier now tend to have more, not fewer, health problems down the road. So if Padre fans are upset about owing Carlos Quentin $8 next year and Cameron Maybin $15 over the next two, just think: they nearly signed an overrated third baseman to $100 million for five years.
All together now: Whew!
Reasons for Concern
That said, there are two reasons for concern as the Padres move forward. First, even though the Padres offered “Panda” more money than Boston, he still went there. Does this mean they’re still going to have trouble getting free agent bats to come to San Diego? Are all of the available big bats afraid that donning Padre jerseys will sink their numbers, given that Petco is still a pitcher’s park?
Perhaps they should consider bringing the fences in some more.
Second, general manager A.J. Preller now has even more competition for highly touted Cuban defector Yasmani Tomas. Just a week ago, MLBTradeRumors.com reported that they and the Braves were the favorites to land him. The Giants were already interested, but now they are going to double their efforts, especially in light of losing Sandoval. Should they sign him, Bochy’s team apparently plans to play him at third base. If Tomas is half as good as they say, then this would be bad news for San Diego, having him in the same division.
At any rate, Preller has to get back to the drawing board. I still hold out hope that he would consider signing Tomas’ fellow Cuban, Jose Fernandez, to play second base, and move Jedd Gyorko to third. This by itself would represent a significant upgrade, given that Fernandez’ specialty is getting on-base–one of the many offensive categories in which the Padres finished last in 2014.
But for now, things remain unchanged…for the better.