The San Francisco Giants capped off their third championship in five seasons on Wednesday night, and with the end of the series, their cornerstone third baseman has become a free agent. I’m talking about Pablo Sandoval, the 28 year-old switch-hitter, colloquially known as “Kung Fu Panda”. Indeed, the Yankees already have a third baseman in Alex Rodriguez, but who knows how he’ll produce or if his body can hold up a full season. That makes Sandoval a distinct possibility, although he’s not the only option with Chase Headley also on the market.
In the early roll out of Steamer, Sandoval is projected to hit .275/.332/.431 (119 wRC+) in 2015 with his usual above average defense. Sandoval is a trigger-happy high-contact hitter, with career walk and strikeout rates at 7.3% and 13.7% respectively. His 2015 projections are right in line with those two marks. Last season, Sandoval led the league in swing rate (58.3%) and was 7th in out-of-zone contact (79.8%). Basically, he doesn’t care about pitch location — if he can see it, he’s swinging at it and probably making contact. It’s certainly an atypical approach, but it’s worked for him and is anticipated to continue that way into next season.
Undoubtedly the greatest worry about adding Sandoval is his physique. His weight has fluctuated over the years, and it’s hard to envision his body type aging favorably. Nonetheless, he’s stayed mostly healthy the past two seasons. I’m not sure if that really means anything going forward, but given his age and talent, some team is going to take a chance with perhaps a five or six year contract.
What will the Panda cost? According to Fangraphs crowdsourcing, which has been a pretty decent estimator historically, both the median and average contract term is of five years in length. In financial terms, the crowd median is $79M, and the average a tick higher at $80M. In addition, a new club will likely have to sacrifice a first-round, assuming the Giants give Sandoval a qualifying offer.
Expect the Yankees to abstain from the final stages of bidding for Sandoval. The price will probably be too steep, especially for a guy who may not age gracefully. Look for the Yankees to push to retain Headley at a lower cost (FG crowd has roughly 4 years, $50-56M) without risking a draft pick. Sandoval is a fun player to watch, and was awesome this postseason, but it’s simply too risky for the Yankees despite the positional need.