The San Francisco Giants will have their star third baseman Pablo Sandoval locked up for three more seasons after a savvy move by the front office to extend him. Last season, Sandoval dropped some weight, and his defense noticeably improved (12.3 UZR). He had a 142 wRC+ for a total of 5.5 WAR which are impressive numbers for a third baseman, and it is difficult to find third basemen who can hit as well as Kung Fu Panda while still managing to play solid defense. When he keeps his weight in check, Sandoval is a well above average defensive player whose range increases exponentially. The Giants will pay their star 3B $17.15 million ($5.7 million per year) until he turns 28.
If Pablo Sandoval is worth 5.5 WAR like he was last season and 2009, he will cement his place as a star player. He is already one of the more valuable players in the league due to his hitting, solid defense, and positional value. Sandoval is a career .307 hitter who consistently gets on base more than 35% of the time. He has pop (23 home runs) which is all the more valuable when considering his home ballpark and the lack of offensive firepower at the hot corner.
An overwhelming total of 40 fans on FanGraphs submitted their projections and believe that Sandoval is a 5.6 WAR player. Bill James has Kung Fu Panda as a 5 WAR player, while RotoChamp believes that he is a 4.5 WAR player. A simple Marcel system yields a total of 4.3 WAR, but it should be noted that this includes a weighty- pun intended- 2010 season.
It can be deduced that Sandoval is worth 5 WAR and is one of the best five third basemen in the MLB. The fans projected total of 5.6 WAR is the fifth best total when compared to their other projections, but Sandoval had the third highest WAR among third basemen last year. A total of 5 WAR, instead of his actual 5.5 WAR in 2011, would have still been good for third among third basemen last year.
5 WAR players are worth about $22 million, and the Giants struck a bargain with this extension. They will receive about 15 WAR in value and pay him as if he were a 1.3 WAR player. This is exactly the kind of extension ever team hopes for, and it isn’t often that you re-sign a fan favorite, your best hitter, and a 5 WAR player to a deal that is just under $6 million. This gives the Giants more payroll flexibility in the coming years to lock down their rotation and add some pieces to the offense. The Giants are already busy trying to sort of Tim Lincecum‘s situation, and they needed to get this extension out of the way.
There is a “weight” risk that has been associated with this contract, but Pablo Sandoval’s 2011 season was legitimate. Although an increase in weight would destroy his ability to play the field, his weight will most likely stay in check. If his weight increases again, his ability as a hitter will pummel from great to average. However, he would still be a league-average player, and 2 WAR players usually get $8 million per season.
The contract is scaled so that he will make $8.25 million in 2014 and just $3.2 million this season (exactly $5.7 million in 2013). This extension is as good as it gets for the Giants, because Sandoval is their best offensive player on a team bereft of overall talent offensively. It is difficult to avoid gushing about this move for the Giants, because it is almost impossible to give a 5 WAR player around $6 million a year; let alone $10-15 million. Sandoval is a star, and his career wRC+ of 125 (142 last season in his most applicable year as a pro) shows that he is already a quality hitter. With the excess weight down, he turns into valuable defensive player and a star.
Follow Joe Soriano on Twitter here, and be sure to check back on Call to the Pen for season previews of every team, including the San Francisco Giants. Check out Around the Foghorn to get your daily Giants fix.