Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News today claim that the Giants will likely try to sign 2Bman Freddie Sanchez to a multi-year contract this off-season.
I wish they wouldn’t, because I don’t think Sanchez can give the Giants enough of what they need on offense even if he performs close to his average over the last three seasons (2007-2009). In fact, since Sanchez will be 32 next year, I expect that his performance will drop off substantially over the next two seasons.
The thinking on the part of the sportswriters seems to be that the Giants may resign Sanchez in order to give him a chance to justify the trade which cost the Giants Tim Alderson. Making personnel decisions based on trying to justify past mistakes is not a good way to run a team.
Also, the Giants may be thinking that given his injuries this year and his failure to get enough plate appearances to vest his 2010 option for $8.1 million, they can sign him at a bargain price on a two or three year contract. As I said above, given his age, I expect a sharp drop-off in Sanchez’s performance by 2011.
The player I’d like to see the Giants target at second is the Marlins’ Dan Uggla. He’s only hitting .240 this year, but he’s hit 30 homeruns for the third season in a row, and his current .811 OPS is excellent for a middle infielder and well within his career norms.
Uggla will be 30 in 2010 and has two seasons left before he becomes a free agent.
More than anything else, what the Giants need is another hitter in their everyday lineup with pop. Uggla has that in spades. He’s also a right-handed hitter; it’s easier to hit with power from the right side at AT&T Park.
For what it’s worth, however, Fangraphs’ ultimate zone formulas rate Sanchez as a better defensive 2Bman than Uggla (I’m not certain that I’m sold on the accuracy of ultimate zone rating (UZR) or UZR/150, but that’s a subject for another post somewhere down the line.)
Of course, with Uggla, the question is what it would take in trade to get the Marlins to bite. Many commentators expect that the Marlins will look to trade Uggla this off-season, because of his escalating salary and proximity to free agency. With two years left before he becomes a free agent and being a proven but rapidly aging star, his trade value is probably at a peak this off-season, at least going forward.
There was also a locker room incident earlier this month between Uggla and Hanley Ramirez over Ramirez’s alleged nonchalant attitude and unwillingness to play hurt. Since Ramirez is the franchise player, who also happens to be locked in by the Marlins to a very team-favorable long-term deal, this may mean the Marlins decide to move Uggla this off-season.
A deal I could live with would be Jonathan Sanchez, AAA 2Bman Matt Downs, and a young relief pitcher, like say, Osiris Matos, who had a good year at AAA and is only 24 years old, or Steve Edlefsen, who went rocketing through the Giants’ system this year and is also currently 24. However, the Giants recently removed Matos from their 40-man roster to make room for one of their September call-ups, so they may loose him through the Rule 5 Draft.
More likely, the Marlins would ask for Sanchez, AA 2Bman Brock Bond, who is two years younger than Downs and led the Eastern League this year in batting average (.333) and OBP (.429), and left-handed reliever Dan Runzler, who’s also 24 this year and has now pitched in 7 major league games without allowing a run. That deal would be a lot harder to swallow.
It’s also assuming that the Giants would be willing to trade Jonathan Sanchez so soon after his no-hitter, now that he appears right on the verge of turning the corner and becoming a top National League starter. Of course, you’d have to give up at least one player with Sanchez’s potential to get a player like Uggla.
In any case, the Giants should look to trade Matt Downs this off-season, when he still has some trade value. He had a fine year at AAA this year, hitting an even .300 and posting an .834 OPS, strong for a middle infielder. He’ll be 26 next Spring, so this would be the time to move him if the Giants can get anything in return.
As I see it, Downs is still behind Emmanuel Burriss, who will return from his injury-plagued 2009 season, but has substantial major league experience and is a year younger than Downs; Kevin Frandsen, who at age 27 has less trade value than Downs but more practical value to the Giants as a player who can also play shortstop in a back-up capacity; and, of course, whoever the Giants sign to be their starter at second.
In the long term, after his fantastic year at AA Connecticut at age 23, Brock Bond has to be the player to keep between him and Downs (assuming, of course, that their defensive is roughly equal).