The Houston Astros legitimately have a chance of competing in the coming season, providing the front office spend some money, of course. One of the biggest holes in the team, in my opinion anyway, is at the hot-corner, third base. Matt Dominguez hasn't quite lived up to his lofty expectations. He has displayed much less power than last season, and his defense has been substandard, and annoying. Enter; Pablo Sandoval - the answer to the question. The saviour.
Sandoval arrived to spring training, how long ago was that - wow - in incredible shape, having received much criticism all season long over weight issues. In hindsight, that set the tone for the season ahead. He has continued to show some pop, which is impressive when you hit in AT&T Park, and has played gold glove calibre defense all season long. All in all, a really nice season from the third baseman.
The Panda has never been able to recreate the form of his rookie year, when he hit over twenty long balls, but he does play for the Giants, which can't help, given that their stomping ground is a horrible place, hell some may even say, if you have any interest in hitting home runs. On the other hand, bringing him to the American League could spark a change. A change which may merit another twenty home run campaign from Sandoval. Which is exciting, right?
Prototypically, people get alarmed, very alarmed over his ridiculous swing percentage -- the highest in the major leagues -- but they shouldn't. He is an incredible bad-ball hitter, like no-one I've ever seen before, he hits everything. Everything. In a league filled to the brim with strikeout pitchers, who make a living by getting hitters to chase pitches outside of the zone, Sandoval could have a huge impact. He could have a breakout year in terms of offense. Once more, that sounds pretty exciting, eh.
In fairness, his year offensively has been pretty nice. A .280/.326/.421 slashline with 16 home runs and 68 runs batted in. In addition, a 113 wRC+, an offensive WAR of 4.8 and a wRAA of 7.4 and finally, an ISO of .142. In one of the worlds biggest understatements, Sandoval likes to swing the bat. His swing percentage of 59 is the highest in the big leagues, however, his contact percentage for pitches outside of the strike zone ranks within the top 15 major league hitters. So yeah, he's most certainly an offensive upgrade from Dominguez, if you ask me anyway.
Regardless of his nice bat, the main reason the Astros should pursue Sandoval lies in his glove, though. I mean, the offense is a nice bonus, especially given that -- hopefully, anyway -- George Springer, Dexter Fowler, Jose Altuve, Chris Carter and Jonathan Singleton will be in the lineup, mashing the ball on a regular basis. Pablo could be a pretty nice sixth/fifth hitter, the role he has played so well in for the Giants. Anyway that's enough of playing manager, back to the point: At the hot-corner, it would be sacrilege should he not win the gold glove in the National League -- and yes, Nolan Arenado plays third base in the National League, that's just how good Pablo has been.
A .971 fielding percentage, a DRS of five, a BIZ of 285, a OOZ of 50 and a UZR/150 of 5.9, which is very good. Very, very good. The numbers don't lie, the numbers never lie, Sandoval is a top quality defensive third baseman. I'm starting to paint a picture of the Panda being the best free agent available, and you know what - he is certainly among the best. That may sound even more promising, it does, however, come with one rather large downfall; money.
Inflation is inevitable, I mean Shin-Soo-Choo got a little over $160-million for getting on base, how moneyball. In a very slim free-agent market in terms of positional players, prices will obviously be much higher than usual for players like Sandoval. Pair that with the fact Pablo has a very greedy agent, shall I say. Before the Panda even showed up to spring training, his agent was demanding $100-million, which was a lot for a then, slumping offensive, substandard defensive over-weight third baseman.
So - should the Houston Astros pursue Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants in the offseason? Emm, I don't know, man. Whilst I accept that's a pretty poor and inconclusive conclusion, it's a hard one. With teams like the New York Yankees sniffing round for infielders, the price-tag placed upon Sandoval's head could be a mega one. If it's reasonable in terms of years and dollars, I say go for it. It's time the front office went for it. It's time some money was spent, why not start with Sandoval?