What a difference a few years make. Back in 2009, San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval looked to be one of baseball’s new rising stars. He hit .330 with 25 home runs and 90 runs batted in as a 23 year old. Now Sandoval is batting .165 through 21 games and 79 at bats. That’s the worst average of any Giant. What happened?
Well for one thing, Sandoval’s weight has always been an issue. His weight the last few seasons have led to injuries, not being able to catch up to the fastball and struggling with his movement at third base. Even through his problems, Sandoval was the MVP of the 2012 World Series where he hit three home runs in the first game of that series, with two coming off Justin Verlander. The Giants have always kept faith that Sandoval will return to the form he showed in 2009. He shows flashes, but not consistently.
Onto this season: Sandoval is in the last year of his contract and is set to be a free agent this offseason. The Giants and Sandoval’s agent were in contract negotiations at the beginning of the season. However, they broke off those negotiations recently once Sandoval’s agent made it clear that Sandoval was looking for a contract similar to his teammate Hunter Pence, who got a 5-year, $90 million contract.
If Sandoval wants a big contract he certainly isn’t playing like it. He looks anxious at the plate, not working the count, showing very little power and looking like a guy who is pressing both physically and mentally as he may be trying too hard for that contract extension. Until recently the Giants have continued to bat him third in the batting order, but Giants Manager Bruce Bochy finally moved him down in the lineup.
Solving the Sandoval problem isn’t necessarily easy, because he’s pretty much been a bad hitter all season long and it doesn’t look like it’ll change anytime soon. Moving him down to sixth or seventh in the lineup would be a start and if that doesn’t work, then give him some rest for a couple days.
The last resort would be to trade him, but the best opportunity for that was last year. The longer the Giants hold onto Sandoval with him batting poorly the worse his value becomes. There were rumors that the Giants could have traded him last year to the Detroit Tigers along with a couple of relievers for their young third basemen Nick Castellanos, but that didn’t materialize, and now they are in a dilemma.
Twenty-one games is a small sample size, and the law of averages is on Sandoval’s side, meaning that he will more than likely turn it around eventually and start hitting. However, even when Sandoval starts hitting, there’s still going to be serious questions regarding his future with the team. Right now the Giants are in a wait-and-see mode with Sandoval.
If he performs well the rest of season, then the Giants could attempt to re-sign him to a modest contract. Or, if Sandoval continues to not produce and is a major weakness with the Giants lineup, then he will more than likely not be re-signed.
Obviously, if the Giants don’t re-sign Sandoval then they will have to go out and get a third baseman, because they do not have a major-league-ready third baseman coming in their farm system. The Giants have talked about potentially moving Buster Posey to third base, but if that does happen it will not happen until at least next season. So, these factors will obviously lead the Giants to pursuing a third baseman next season if Sandoval walks.
Will Sandoval turn it around? That question will be answered before the All Star break.