San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami struck an optimistic note in his recent column "Five reasons Pablo Sandoval stays with the Giants." Some of Kawakami's reasoning:
- Sandoval has had a ball in San Francisco, so he wouldn't leave unless some other team way overpays, which doesn't seem likely right now, considering his mediocre regular-season stats.
- He's proved he can play third base "for a while, maybe even through 2019."
- Because he has been more valuable in the playoffs than the regular season, he is going to attract mostly the attention of teams who play into the postseason more often. And the Giants, as we know, are three for the last five on that score.
- "The Giants almost always keep the players they want," and Sandoval is still within their "long-term salary structure."
- The Giants simply need Sandoval more than other teams do and can pay a premium if they have to.
Kawakami's best guess is that San Francisco signs Panda to a five-year, $92 million contract. Reports have Sandoval wanting six years, which would put him at age 34 at the end of the deal.
But last week, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that might be a stretch for the Giants:
Last thing the Giants wanted to hear is that Pablo Sandoval is seeking a six-year deal. Jumping from an offer of three years to four or even five is one thing. Six is extreme. By then, Sandoval will be 34, and the Giants must be convinced the third baseman will maintain his value over the contract — or that he’ll produce for only part of it and overpay on the back end just to get it done. Either way, six years requires at least a $100 million commitment.
Maury Brown, who writes about the sports business for Forbes, doesn't think six years for north of $100 million is unreasonable or particularly risky, especially in a world where the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton can ink a contract worth $325 million over 13 years.
"In terms of total dollars, given the number of years, the average annual value will be up there," Brown said of a Sandoval signing. "But given the fact that there are a number of teams that have historically spent -- who have revenues to spend -- who are in need of third basemen, I don’t see that as an (excessive) amount. I think $100 million will likely be the bottom of this discussion; it will most likely be higher."
(Plus, as Kawakami wrote, ""You sell enough panda hats every October, the long-term budget looks better and better.")
Brown says the most risk incurred by teams occurs when they sign older players to long-term deals.
That "changes the dynamic of whether you have an albatross around your neck or not. Almost always dollars will escalate (in) what’s called backloaded contracts, where those values increase at the end. This is the problem you get into when you sign veteran players. Albert Pujols is an example, and his 10-year deal when he was signed at a much older age. Josh Hamilton is another. Alex Rodriguez. In terms of risk, signing Pablo Sandoval to six years as opposed to signing Albert Pujols to 10 years, the risk is much lower with Sandoval."
Although the TV deal the Giants have is "nothing extraordinary" compared with some of the big-money teams, Brown says, their high attendance allows them to go the extra mile in signing the 28-year-old Sandoval -- if they really want him. Though overpaying has not been their style. (We'll overlook Barry Zito here.)
"While they’ve spent a lot, they have not been, certainly, like the Dodgers and Yankees and Red Sox," Brown said. "For them to have put together three World Series championships since 2010, you might be able to get Larry Baer and the organization go, 'You know what it’s worth having this guy, so let’s bump up a little higher.' (But) they seem to find players here and there, they don’t make big splashes in free agency. I think if it gets too rich for their diet, they’ll walk away from it."
As for the Giancarlo Stanton deal, I spoke to Brown before it was final, when the tentative terms had just been reported. He called them "mind-boggling" and said the Marlins may be in the midst of another bait-and-switch.