Giants want Sanchez back, but not for $8.1 million

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Freddy Sanchez seemed like a worthwhile midseason pickup at the time. After all, he was a 31-year-old career .300 hitter batting .296/.334/.442 in 86 games with the Pirates and the Giants desperately needed some help offensively.
Instead of providing a big upgrade at second base Sanchez has hit just .284/.295/.325 while missing half of San Francisco’s games with shoulder and knee injuries, the latter of which will require surgery at some point. For the now the Giants are still clinging to slim playoff hopes, so Sanchez will try to put off surgery until the offseason and contribute something down the stretch.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether the Giants will exercise their $8.1 million option on Sanchez for next season. At the time of the trade that seemed like a foregone conclusion, but Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News now calls it “almost automatic” that they’ll decline the option and “talk to Sanchez about a two-year contract at a lower figure.”
Baggarly also notes that both the Giants and Pirates were aware that Sanchez would likely require offseason knee surgery when they made the July 29 trade. In fact, Sanchez sat out a three-game series against the Giants directly preceding the swap. Asked if he regrets trading a quality pitching prospect in Tim Alderson for what has turned out to be 25 games of terrible hitting and mediocre defense from Sanchez, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said:

I know at the time we made the trade everybody was all-in, including the medical team, that we could keep him on the field,. The bigger thing with Freddy is he hasn’t been on the field because of other things, including the left shoulder. He didn’t have the chance to be out there on a regular basis. You can’t deny that Freddy, when he’s been out there, has been every bit a No. 2 hitter that we didn’t have, and an All-Star second baseman.

Of course, you can deny exactly that, because Sanchez has a lowly .295 on-base percentage and .325 slugging percentage for the Giants, which isn’t exactly ideal atop the lineup. Perhaps the Giants will end up re-signing Sanchez at a discounted rate and perhaps he’ll bounce back with a healthy, productive 2010, but so far the trade has been a bust and with several quality middle infielders set to become free agents this offseason the Giants are probably right to decline Sanchez’s option.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.