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Grading The Deal: Red Sox Snag Panda From Giants

By Andrew Perna

Looking to rebound from their second last-place finish in three seasons and with money to spend, the Boston Red Sox made two big splashes on Monday when they agreed to terms with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.

Sandoval received a five-year, $95 million contract with a club option at $17 million for a sixth season. The Red Sox will have the option to buy out that sixth year for $5 million in 2020 when the third baseman will be 34 years old.

In seven Major League seasons, the switch-hitter has a .294/.346/.465 slash line with 106 home runs and 462 RBIs. He has won three World Series titles with the San Francisco Giants, who will now have to replace his production. The silver lining for the Giants is that Brian Sabean has always been able to plug emerging holes in the team’s roster, but the loss of Sandoval is unlike one the club has experienced during their current run of success.

What hurts the Giants most is they offered "Kung Fu Panda" a very similar contract without signifying that an increase was out of the question if negotiations continued, according to numerous reports. The San Diego Padres also offered Sandoval a five-year deal in the $95 million range, but to put it bluntly the Padres aren’t the Giants or Red Sox.

The Red Sox introduced Sandoval as the newest member of the team on Tuesday and he admitted choosing Boston over San Francisco was “tough.” He added that playing at Fenway Park “was one of the things I was thinking about in my decision.”

When you consider the recent success of both franchises, similar contract offers and familiarity the 28-year-old had with the Giants, it’s difficult to settle on a reason why he would leave the Bay Area for New England.

Sandoval’s weight was a long-running point of contention between the Venezuelan and the San Francisco front office, but he claims to have never taken the organization’s concerns personally. He has also already committed to working with Boston’s trainers to help keep his weight under control. So did the Giants upset Sandoval with their concerns about his weight? Maybe, but that’s not the reason he passed on a chance to stick around.

In the wake of this deal, some of his former Giants teammates have expressed both a love for Sandoval and knowledge of his desire to take care of his family financially. The truth is that every a five-year, $95 million deal isn’t the same.

Ray Ratto of CSN Bay Area spoke with Forbes and uncovered the truth about the difference between $95 million in California and Massachusetts. Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes estimates that Sandoval will earn an additional $3.735 million over five years in Boston than he would have in San Francisco. The details can be found in Ratto’s piece, but the short of it is that Massachusetts has a flat personal income tax, while California uses a progressive rate.

Grade for Sandoval: A-

For Sandoval, he gives himself another avenue into the lineup if his body and defense don’t hold up as a member of the American League. That, in addition to the tax benefit, make the Red Sox a nice fit.

The Giants know what they are losing, but what are the Red Sox gaining?

Boston was in dire need of a third baseman after Will Middlebrooks failed to progress in 2014. The 26-year-old hit .191/.256/.265 in 234 plate appearances, numbers that Sandoval can put up with one eye closed. Sandoval gives John Farrell some variety in the batting lineup. He’ll help balance a mostly right-handed batting order.

It’s hard to calculate how instrumental David Ortiz was in getting Sandoval to come to Boston. Ironically, it's conceivable that Ben Cherington plans to slide Sandoval to designated hitter, opening up third base, when the Ortiz, 39, finally retires.

Sandoval produced very well at AT&T Park, hitting .313/.365/.488, but those numbers figure to swell at Fenway Park. He has never logged a plate appearance in Boston, but it bodes well that his average at his former home park, which is famously cavernous, is better than his overall line.

He has long been seen as a perfect fit for Fenway and Cherington identified him as his main target this offseason. The Red Sox had money to spend and aren’t an organization that can simply stand by after a last-place finish. For so many years they wanted to be seen as a perennial contender much different than the rival New York Yankees, but that can no longer hide behind that façade. They spend with the best of them.

Grade for Red Sox: B+

Any contract of this size carries some risk, but Sandoval isn’t as big a risk as one might think. He’s a great hitter, produces in the postseason, plays better defense than the average fan thinks and will only be 33 years old in the final guaranteed year of the deal.


Complete List Of 2015 MLB Free Agents

By RealGM Staff Report

The San Francisco Giants have barely had time to finish celebrating their third World Series victory in five years and free agency is already upon us. Below is a list of all of baseball's free agents and their age. Once agreements are made, we'll up date the list to include each player's club.

Catchers

J.P. Arencibia (29)
John Buck (34)
Ryan Doumit (34)
Chris Gimenez (32)
Nick Hundley (31
Gerald Laird (35)
Russell Martin (32)
Wil Nieves (36)
A.J. Pierzynski (38)
David Ross (38)
Geovany Soto (32)

First Basemen

Daric Barton (29)
Billy Butler (29)
Mike Carp (29)
Michael Cuddyer (36)
Corey Hart (33)
Adam LaRoche (35)
Mike Morse (33)
Lyle Overbay (38)
Carlos Pena (37)
Mark Reynolds (32)

Second Basemen

Emilio Bonifacio (30)
Mark Ellis (38)
Rafael Furcal (37)
Jonathan Herrera (30)
Brandon Hicks (29)
Kelly Johnson (33)
Ramon Santiago (35)
Rickie Weeks (32)
Josh Wilson (34)

Shortstops

Clint Barmes (36)
Asdrubal Cabrera (29)
Stephen Drew (32)
Jonathan Herrera (30)
Jed Lowrie (31)
John McDonald (40)
Hanley Ramirez (31)

Third Basemen

Alberto Callaspo (32)
Jack Hannahan (35)
Chase Headley (31)
Kelly Johnson (33)
Donnie Murphy (32)
Chris Nelson (29)
Hanley Ramirez (31)
Mark Reynolds (32)
Pablo Sandoval (28)

Left Fielders

Melky Cabrera (30)
Mike Carp (29)
Endy Chavez (37)
Tyler Colvin (29)
Nelson Cruz (34)
Chris Denorfia (34)
Cole Gillespie (30)
Jonny Gomes (34)
Tony Gwynn Jr. (32)
Scott Hairston (35)
Reed Johnson (38)
Jason Kubel (33)
Ryan Ludwick (36)
Nyjer Morgan (34)
Mike Morse (33)
Alfonso Soriano (39)
Josh Willingham (36)
Chris B. Young (31)
Delmon Young (29)

Center Fielders

Emilio Bonifacio (30)
Endy Chavez (37)
Nyjer Morgan (34)
Colby Rasmus (28)
Chris B. Young (31)

Right Fielders

Nori Aoki (33)
Endy Chavez (37)
Tyler Colvin (29)
Nelson Cruz (34)
Michael Cuddyer (36)
Chris Denorfia (34)
Scott Hairston (35)
Torii Hunter (39)
Nick Markakis (31)
Alex Rios (34)
Nate Schierholtz (31)
Ichiro Suzuki (41)
Yasmany Tomas (24)
Chris B. Young (31)

Designated Hitters

Billy Butler (29)
Ryan Doumit (34)
Adam Dunn (35)
Jason Giambi (44)
Jonny Gomes (34)
Corey Hart (33)
Raul Ibanez (42)
Jason Kubel (33)
Victor Martinez (35)
Kendrys Morales (31)
Delmon Young (29)

Starting Pitchers

Brett Anderson (27)
Scott Baker (33)
Chad Billingsley (30)
A.J. Burnett (38)
Chris Capuano (36)
Bruce Chen (38)
Kevin Correia (34)
Gavin Floyd (32)
Jason Hammel (32)
Aaron Harang (37)
Roberto Hernandez (34)
Josh Johnson (31)
Kyle Kendrick (30)
Hiroki Kuroda (40)
Jon Lester (31)
Colby Lewis (35)
Francisco Liriano (31)
Paul Maholm (33)
Justin Masterson (30)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (34)
Brandon McCarthy (31)
Brad Mills (29)
Franklin Morales (29)
Brandon Morrow (30)
Felipe Paulino (31)
Jake Peavy (34)
Wandy Rodriguez (36)
Ervin Santana (32)
Joe Saunders (34)
Max Scherzer (30)
James Shields (33)
Misael Siverio (24)
Kevin Slowey (31)
Carlos Villanueva (31)
Ryan Vogelsong (37)
Edinson Volquez (30)
Randy Wolf (38)
Chris Young (36)

Closers

Jason Grilli (38)
Casey Janssen (33)
David Robertson (30)
Francisco Rodriguez (33)
Sergio Romo (32)
Rafael Soriano (35)

Right-Handed Relievers

Mike Adams (36)
Matt Albers (32)
Burke Badenhop (32)
Andrew Bailey (31)
Matt Belisle (34)
Heath Bell (37)
Jared Burton (34)
Joba Chamberlain (29)
Jesse Crain (34)
Kyle Farnsworth (39)
Jason Frasor (38)
Kyuji Fujikawa (34)
Luke Gregerson (31)
Matt Guerrier (36)
Luke Hochevar (31)
Jim Johnson (32)
Matt Lindstrom (35)
Jeff Manship (30)
Nick Masset (33)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (34)
Dustin McGowan (32)
Jason Motte (33)
Pat Neshek (34)
Juan Carlos Oviedo (33)
Chris Perez (29)
Sergio Santos (31)
Kevin Slowey (31)
Tim Stauffer (32)
Jose Veras (34)
Jamey Wright (40)

Left-Handed Relievers

Joe Beimel (38)
Craig Breslow (34)
Sean Burnett (32)
Phil Coke (32)
Neal Cotts (35)
Scott Downs (39)
Zach Duke (32)
Tom Gorzelanny (32)
Andrew Miller (30)
Franklin Morales (29)
Josh Outman (30)
Joe Thatcher (33)

 

This list was put together using the tremendous resource that is MLB Trade Rumors.


2014 World Series: How Will It Shake Out?

By Andrew Perna

After a lengthy layoff between postseason games, baseball returns on Tuesday night as the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals open the World Series at Kauffman Stadium.

Throughout the playoffs both the Giants and Royals have looked like clubs of destiny, but the time has come to determine who will be remembered as the Major League's best team. Kansas City has won all eight of their postseason games, while San Francisco has been impressive as well in winning eight of their 10 contests.

I’m sure you’ve heard the popular narrative -- Kansas City and San Francisco were both Wild Card entrants and neither won 90 games. The Royals hadn’t even been to the playoffs since winning the World Series in 1985, but they look like seasoned veterans. The Giants, meanwhile, have appeared in the Fall Classic every other year dating back to 2010. Oh by the way, they won it all in 2010 and 2012.

The regular season seems like forever ago and we’ve learned that the team that performs best over 162 games isn’t always best prepared for the playoffs, but clubs rarely change drastically in terms of production. The Giants and Royals both employed middling offenses this year with San Francisco having edges in OPS (.699 to .690), home runs (132 to 95) and runs per game (4.1 to 4.0). As you might expect, Kansas City best San Francisco on the bases with nearly 100 more steals (153 to 56).

How have things changed in October?

The Royals have been the better offensive team in the playoffs with advantages in OPS (.721 to .638), home runs (8 to 5) and runs per game (5.25 to 4.1). It has been more a drastic change in production from Kansas City than any significant change from San Francisco. It's worth noting that the Giants have had to face better pitching in the LDS and LCS rounds. Still, it is impressive the Ned Yost’s club has been able to score 31.25% more runs in the playoffs than they did in the regular season.

Kansas City has swiped 13 bags in their eight playoff games, which is just two fewer than the other nine playoff entrants have totaled combined. Speed will be key in the World Series as Buster Posey and the San Francisco pitching staff will look to keep the Royals in check. Making smart decisions with the baseball and executing key defensive plays will be a top priority for Bruce Bochy and Co., especially after they had a front row seat as the St. Louis Cardinals fumbled multiple times in the NLCS.

It’s unlikely that Posey and his battery mate will keep the Royals entirely contained on the bases, but they have the discipline to keep Yost and his staff from stealing a championship solely with their feet.

The best starting pitcher in the series is Madison Bumgarner, which is a huge advantage for the Giants. James Shields, who carries the nickname “Big Game James” has a reputation that he hasn’t lived up to this month, will oppose Bumgarner in Game 1 and then perhaps again in Game 5 depending on how the first three games shake out.

Bumgarner, the MVP of the NLCS, has a 1.42 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 28 strikeouts against just five walks in 31.2 playoff innings. If he’s able to dominate in his starts as he has so far, San Francisco will be in great position to win their third title in five years.

Shields, meanwhile, is coming off some mediocre pitching and a passed kidney stone. In 16 innings this postseason, the right-hander has a 5.63 ERA, 1.63 WHIP and 15 strikeouts against five walks. He’s given up more home runs and hits than Bumgarner, who has thrown nearly twice the innings.

The entirely of this World Series will pivot on Bumgarner and Shields. The Royals traded Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for Wade Davis and Shields, who was supposed to help push them over the edge. Both have helped do so -- Shields was very good and very reliable during the regular season and Davis has been a shutdown reliever -- but “over the edge” now becomes the Promised Land.

Shields doesn’t have to match Bumgarner frame-for-frame, especially with Kansas City’s bullpen lined up in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but he’ll have to give Yost six quality innings and hope the offense is able to get to Bumgarner, who is averaging nearly eight innings per start in October.

If the Giants aren’t able to win with Bumgarner on the mound, it won’t be surprising if the Royals are able to win a short series. On the other hand, if Bumgarner dominates, San Francisco will be in great position to end Kansas City’s magical run. He’s essentially a 6-foot-5 seesaw.

After Bumgarner-Shields, we’ll see Jake Peavy/Yordano Ventura, Tim Hudson/Jeremy Guthrie and Ryan Vogelsong/Jason Vargas. Those three matchups are impossible to predict. The Giants might have a staff with more experience, but in terms of stuff and recent results the Royals are more than capable of winning on the shoulders of a 23-year-old with a raw shoulder (Ventura) or a 31-year-old with a 4.20 career ERA (Vargas).

The Royals clearly have the more reliable bullpen with the Kelvin Herrera-Davis-Greg Holland combination, but Bochy is a better game manager than Yost and the Royals can’t rely on Herrera-Davis-Holland to continue to dominate in historic ways. There will be at least one game in which Yost will have to decide whether to leave his starter in for the seven or even eighth inning or hand the ball over to the bullpen as he feels most comfortable.

That decision will loom as large as how Bumgarner-Shields shakes out in the first and fifth games. The Giants have a heart of the order -- Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence -- that famously feasts on fastballs.

Kansas City hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 27, but San Francisco has never lost a playoff series with Bochy and Posey. How will the Royals react if they lose a game? Will they panic if that loss comes in Game 1? Can the battle-tested Giants take a few punches from the Royals at an energized Kauffman Stadium and still stay on their feet?

Ultimately, the Giants have Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, the two best players in the series. Having the best player isn’t the be-all and end-all in playoff baseball (look at how the Royals bested Mike Trout’s Angels and the Orioles topped Miguel Cabrera’s Tigers), but when the two best are comprised of one team’s battery that’s a difference-marker

Prediction: Giants in 6



2014 NLCS: Giants vs. Cardinals Preview & Predictions

The Giants and Cardinals are evenly matched with strong track records in recent years, which could set up for a historic postseason series.


2014 NLDS Preview & Predictions

Pitching will be the name of the game in the National League postseason with the Nationals and Dodgers holding advantages over the Giants and Cardinals heading into each NLDS.


MLB Rankings For End Of 2014 Regular Season

In the final edition of our OPSERA rankings for the 2014 season, eight playoff teams fall in the top 10 with the Nationals, Dodgers and Orioles at the top.


MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning September 2

The Giants made the biggest leap this week, jumping to seventh in our rankings after occupying the 13th spot eight days ago. The Nationals, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Orioles top the list.


MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning July 28

The Athletics still have the best record in baseball and top spot on our rankings, followed by the Nationals, Dodgers, Angels and Tigers.


MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning July 21

The Angels and Tigers have swapped spots in our weekly Major League rankings as Los Angeles continues to chase Oakland for the best record in baseball.