As Giants fans enter into an era without Pablo Sandoval, the franchise begins their holiday shopping for a new third baseman.
The Giants have a couple of internal stopgaps, but general manager Brian Sabean is adamant about looking outside the organization.
Joaquin Arias is often used as Sandoval’s defensive stunt double and a spot starter. Arias, 30, has started 69 games at third the last three seasons with the Giants. In 737 at-bats with the Giants, Arias batted .266 with six home runs, 68 RBIs and seven stolen bases.
Arias is tall with more range than Sandoval, but has nowhere near the offensive capability. His value lies in his ability to play multiple positions.
It’s unlikely Arias will be the Giants everyday third baseman, but expect to see him to receive more starts next season. He’s set to make $1.45 million in 2015.
Matt Duffy joined the big league club in early August after he hit .322 in 97 games with Double-A Richmond. He hit .267 (16-for-60) in 34 games for the Giants in 2014 with keys plays in the postseason. The 23-year-old is naturally a second baseman, but the emergence of Joe Panik limits Duffy’s time in the middle infield.
He’s only played a handful of games at third between Double-A and the majors, but should see some opportunities in 2015. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Duffy get some work this spring at third base in preparation. The Giants don’t have many other options internally.
Alberto Callaspo came off a two-year, $8.98 million contract with the A’s this offseason. He could be a serviceable option in place of Sandoval.
Callaspo took most of his reps at second base and DH in 2014, but has spent a majority of his career at third. He played 19 games in that position for the A’s last season. He committed eight errors all year in 122 games (34 spent at DH).
The 31-year-old hit .223 (90-for-404) last year and is a career .267 hitter. Callaspo is more of a platoon player than an everyday starter. He would likely split time with Arias and Duffy at third base. The Toronto Blue Jays are linked to Callaspo, but want him to fill in at second base because they traded for Josh Donaldson last month.
Kevin Frandsen was drafted by the Giants back in 2004. He hit .259 (57-for-220) in 105 games with the Washington Nationals last season, which is his career batting average in eight major league seasons.
At 32, Frandsen can play most positions and he did for the Nationals. He spent 16 games at third base. Like Callaspo, Frandsen would be more of a platoon player.
Frandsen made $900,000 last year and would be a low-risk investment for the Giants until they figure out a long-term solution.
Chase Headley is the top free agent third baseman with Sandoval off the market. Headley, 30, would be an ideal acquisition for the Giants, and they’ve seen a lot of Headley from his San Diego seasons. He split time between the Padres and New York Yankees last year. He’s coming off a one-year, $10.53 million deal.
Headley’s not the most exciting player, but he’s played at least 135 games five of the last six seasons. He’s a career .265 hitter who will give you around 10 to 15 home runs a season, though he did hit 31 home runs in 2012. He hit .243 (114-for-470) in 2014.
Headley is a league-average third baseman, but Sandoval didn’t exactly put up superstar numbers either until the postseason. Headley would benefit from a strong San Francisco lineup.
Jed Lowrie hasn’t played a game at third base since 2011. The 30-year-old utility infielder usually plays shortstop, but has similar offensive production to Headley. Lowrie’s career slash line is .261/.330/.411 (BA/OBP/SLG).
The Stanford alum played in 290 games the last two seasons with the A’s. Lowrie is coming off a one-year, $5.25 million contract and would command less than Headley in the open market.
Essentially, Valbuena is a rich man’s Arias. His on-base percentage was a respectable .341 last year and put up the same amount of home runs as Sandoval (16).
Plouffe hit .258 (134-for-520) with a career-high 80 RBIs last year, seven more than Sandoval. Those are solid numbers for Target Field, which is the American League equivalent of AT&T Park.
His on-base percentage increased each of the last three seasons and finished 2014 with a 3.9 wins above replacement as opposed to Sandoval’s 3.4. Plouffe made $2.3 million last season and is eligible for arbitration this year.
These are all signs he could be dealt. The Twins are a low-market team and rarely shell out cash in situations like this.
Yoan Moncada is an intriguing story. He’s a highly-touted, 19-year-old Cuban prospect.
While Major League Baseball has declared Moncada a free agent, he hasn’t obtained the license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control that Major League Baseball requires players to have before signing. There’s no clear timetable for when that will come.
The Giants will have one of the lowest 2015-2016 international bonus pools. They haven’t been too active in the Cuban market, but with a thin farm system, Moncada would be a good fit.