Free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval appears to be closing in on signing with his next team. He reportedly will be making a decision next week. It's been an interesting ride thus far for Sandoval as three teams have emerged as the favorites in the bidding.
The Giants, Red Sox, and Padres are the three main teams interested in Sandoval's services. They each have made their bids. The Red Sox reportedly had the highest bid coming into today, offering Sandoval a five-year, $95 million contract. The Padres made their offer to the third baseman today and reportedly made the "high bid" for Sandoval. The Giants' contract offer details haven't been reported, but they are still making a push for Sandoval as well, leading to what looks to be an interesting coming week.
Contract negotiations for Sandoval are likely to reach over $100 million, especially if the Padres topped the Red Sox five-year, $95 million deal today. Sandoval was only a 3.0 fWAR player in 2014, and at age 28 with his weight, he may start declining within the next couple of years or so. Sandoval hit 16 homers in 2014, which was his most since 2011.
I don't know if Sandoval is worth $19-$20 million per season. At the end of last offseason, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wrote an interesting article on how much money was invested per win. He found that the average player was given about $7 million per win, while the median player was given $5.9 million per win. Based on the Red Sox' offer to Sandoval, he'd be paid about $6.3 million per win, which could be considered a steal based on the average. But Sandoval won't be improving over the next five seasons.
I'm not sure if a $100 million commitment to a 28-year-old, 245 pound third baseman is the right thing to do for any of these three teams. I think that when we look back at this deal, we will see that the negatives outweigh the positives. Don't get me wrong; Sandoval is a good player. But does a "good" player deserve $20 million a year, a deal usually reserved for an absolute stud?
In 2014, twenty-two players were paid $20 million or more. Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, and Felix Hernandez were absolute studs. They all made over $20 million. Vernon Wells, Ryan Howard, and Prince Fielder also made over $20 million. Wells wasn't on a team, Fielder was injured for most of the year, and Howard was, well, Howard. When we look back at the Sandoval deal five years down the road, will we see a Jayson Werth deal or an Albert Pujols deal? I don't think either is a guarantee.
When Werth signed his seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals, he was older than Sandoval (31), but had posted a 4.9 fWAR the season before. His contract with Washington guaranteed him an average of $18 million a year, and since signing, Werth has posted fWARs of 2.3, 0.6, 4.6, and 4.8, respectively. He is still guaranteed to be in a Nationals uniform for three more years, but he has been very good.
Sandoval is in a different situation than Werth. He's three years older, but didn't produce as well in his contract year. Sandoval might be projected to regress faster than Werth, who still has shown the ability to get on base, hit, and hit for power.
I am mixed on the rumored deal for Sandoval. I really think it comes down to how much a team is willing to spend over how many years. I think a five-year deal is right on the money for him, but a contract could be over $100 million, which would make him amongst the richest in the major leagues. I don't know if he is worth it. We will find out soon enough. Or in five years. Whichever comes first.