Yes. I know. It sounds weird. The Cubs should go after Pablo Sandoval.
But allow me to explain…
First let me start by saying this notion was not concocted by my own brain cells. No, instead, it came from my good buddy Ryan, (Ryan_Swartz7).
Here’s the scenario: Ryan and I had just completed our softball season (a stupid playoff loss no less) and were having a post-game drink at a local Chicago saloon (a bar for the laymen). Game 7 of the World Series was on. And boy, we were into it. We started the evening as Royals “fans.” But as the game progressed we found ourselves on both sides: half for the Royals, whose fan base deserved to win something, anything. Half for the badass that is Bumgarner (swoon).
Through the numerous baseball arguments, “hooray baseball!” chants, and oh so many beers…Ryan throws this curve ball at me after a Kung Fu Panda double in the 8th: “DUDE. The Cubs should go after Sandoval this off-season.”
My immediate reaction was to laugh. “Ha, good one dude. The Cubs should toooooooootally do that.” We get it, he just hit a double, it’s the World Series, and we are a few brews deep. But c’mon, pump the breaks, friend-o.
I wasn’t alone. There were several others on our team who also chuckled at the thought of the 245 pound Panda jogging to third at Wrigley.
One problem: Ryan wasn’t joking. He was dead serious. I knew he was serious by what he said next:
That’s when I knew he wasn’t playing. He was serious.
Here’s what Ryan laid out for us when we pressed him in hopes of getting more ammo to make fun of him:
- Veteran bat with postseason (and championship) experience.
- Plays third base, which is somewhat of a commodity.
- Loves coming through in the big moments when it counts.
Can you disagree with any of those? I certainly couldn’t at the time. We all went from laughing at such a stupid notion, to simultaneously shrugging our shoulders and cheering in the 9th for Alex Gordon to get to 3rd on the misplay by Gregor Blanco in center field.
But after the Giants won, I couldn’t shake that notion of Sandoval on the Cubs. The more I thought about it, the more sense I could make out of that originally drunken thought. Let’s take a look at Ryan’s reasons.
1. Veteran bat with postseason (and championship) experience: Pablo has played in a total of 39 total postseason games. He’s won 3 World Series with the Giants and won the World Series MVP for his role in the 2012 championship. That’s a record that should not be shrugged at. Actually it’s pretty damn impressive. Is it the most important factor when evaluating free agents? Of course not. But it’s also not something that can be totally discarded during that same evaluation process. The Cubs could use that experience. They just don’t have anything like that in clubhouse right now.
2. Plays 3rd base which is somewhat of a commodity: This is just truth. There’s not a ton out there. But beyond that, Sandoval actually isn’t that bad of a defensive 3rd basemen. I love sabermetrics, and recognize it’s hard at times to quantify a player’s worth using the stats that are currently available. But people way smarter than I have put together some pretty awesome stats to judge defensive play. For me personally, I love taking a look at UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). Check out that link to learn a bit more. When looking at Pablo’s ranking in UZR this year, he comes in 10th among 3rd basemen. Compare that to #Batflip Valbuena’s ranking of 19th (who I like, by the way). That’s a pretty big gap. Now I know … there is always always ALWAYS more to sabermetrics and rankings. Front offices don’t simply just look at that and say, “Well hell, the Panda finished above Luis in this one obscure category. Let’s sign him!” But it’s interesting. And again, not something to “shake a stick at.” (I also know about that guy Kris Bryant, but, in theory, positional adjustments could be made. We’re just having a conversation here.)
3. Loves coming through in the big moments when it counts: I want to try to avoid the word “clutch” here. Partially because Ryan hates it. And partially because what the hell does that even mean? But Pablo knows when the moment is his. And he always seems to come through for his teammates. As I mentioned before, Sandoval has played in a total of 39 postseason games. He has a slash line .344/.389/.545. Not to mention the 20 RBI’s. Just in his World Series play alone he has a line of .426/.460/.702. That’s insane. Know what Buster Posey’s line is in his World Series appearances? .230/.288/.328. Let that sink in. Sure Posey is a catcher and it’s a long season blah blah blah. Sandoval simply tears up the October Classic like it’s a men’s league softball game. Okay maybe I went too far. But regardless, think the Cubs couldn’t use that kind of play in their road to dominance? Oh yeah, Sandoval is only 28–the youngest available free-agent 3rd basemen.
So, I guess Ryan wasn’t just blowing smoke. I also guess that drunk thoughts sometimes have legs even when you sober up. Sure there are some downsides to Sandoval. There is with any player. Sandoval isn’t known for taking a ton of pitches, which probably doesn’t get the Cubs front-office that jazzed up. He’s got a great relationship with Bruce Bochey, who seems to press all the right buttons. Would he have the same production under say, Joe Maddon? His price tag will no doubt be inflated with his role in this year’s playoffs (he’s reportedly looking for a 6 year deal as well). And, you know, his weight (although maybe pinstripes will help give the appearance of a trimmer dude?). But man, It’s a compelling argument I think. The Cubs should indeed take a look at Pablo Sandoval this year. Theo has said he wants to win the NL Central this year. Why not grab a guy that knows what it’s like to get to the playoffs AND win while you’re there?
So, what started out as a hilariously stupid comment from my buddy, turned into a
thought-provoking 900-word exercise.
My apologies, Ryan. You win this round. Go get ‘em, Theo! I want the Panda.