With the All-Star break upon us and the trade deadline three weeks away, it’s hard not to look at Pablo Sandoval’s career year and think that he may be worth a prospect or two for the rebuilding Giants.
With NBA free agency finally settling out with Golden State waiving Shaun Livingston, it’s similarly hard to look at Draymond Green — who will likely be seeking a max deal next summer — and not think the same: Instead of overpaying for a high-intensity, high-mileage, undersized forward, why not trade him?
The Giants are going nowhere. Golden State is as close to rebuilding as it will get. Why not get something for both of them? It’s a modest proposal, and the prudent thing to do. It’s just not the right thing to do.
While the intense Green and bubbly Sandoval approach their games in very different ways, they do have one commonality: The two soon-to-be-neighbors at Mission Rock would not be as valuable to new teams as they are to their current employers — and fan bases. By choice or by circumstance, neither should leave the Bay.
On Saturday, there were souvenir peddlers at Oracle Park selling Panda hats — when this region loves, it loves hard. What other fans would wear the branded gear of a glorified pinch hitter?
Sandoval, 32, is having his best season since 2011. On a San Francisco team that will almost certainly finish dead last in the NL West, he’s tops in WAR (1.6) despite just 192 plate appearances in 80 games. He paces the team in batting (.288), slugging (.571), OPS (.895) and OPS+ (133). He’s second in homers (11) and doubles (17) and third in RBIs, again, playing just a part-time role.
Despite the Giants’ seven wins in their last nine games, they’re going nowhere. Sandoval could be a free agent at the end of this season (he has a club option for 2020) and he’s making the big league minimum. At that price, with three World Series’ worth of playoff experience, he would seem to be an enticing add for a contending team that needs a switch-hitting bench bat down the stretch.
Green is a former defensive player of the year, a multi-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection who can impact a game in every statistical category, not to mention his basketball IQ and ability to wrangle a defense.
In a recent statistical deep dive by FiveThirtyEight.com, Green was found to be the most valuable defender in the NBA over the last six seasons, worth an average of 3.2 points saved per 100 defensive possessions based on scoring defense alone. A free agent after next season, he’s said to be seeking a max deal.
A sign-and-trade like Golden State executed this offseason to get something for Kevin Durant would seem to be in order, especially with the Warriors going young. Green will be 30 in March, and nine players on the Warriors’ 2019-20 roster are 25 or younger.
Golden State should pay him. Even if they’re bidding against themselves. Likewise, San Francisco should keep Sandoval, at least for this season.
Green was a grudge-filled second-round tweener who has become as integral to the Warriors’ five-year stretch of dominance as Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.
Sandoval was a World Series MVP during an unprecedented run by a franchise starved of championships for more than half a century who has revived his career by coming back to the first place that loved him.
Sandoval was a wreck after he signed a fat free agent contract with Boston in 2014. He admitted that he struggled with the emotions of leaving San Francisco. For the first time since moving to the United States, he had to adjust to a new culture and an obsessive and at-times intrusive fan base. He tried to fit in, he tried too hard at the plate, he felt lost and got cut. He never felt at home there.
Now, it’s a common sight to see him holding court in his corner of the clubhouse, with almost all of the Giants’ Spanish-speaking players (and even locker mates Tyler Austin and Stephen Vogt) gathered around him. His boistrous energy has kept that clubhouse from feeling like a mausoleum during another possible 90-loss season. When he steps to the plate, the ever-shrinking Oracle Park faithful shake themselves awake and puts down their iPhones for a moment.
Green’s play-angry-and-indignant attitude worked in Oakland, a city that will lose two of its three teams in the next year — including, ironically, the Warriors — and has long been the proudly-rough-and-tumble-yet-very-self-conscious fourth-class municipality in the Bay Area.
Golden State was and is the only franchise that could not only endure Green’s petulance, but find it endearing. It represents an edge they’ll need when they move into the posh Chase Center this coming season without Durant or an injured Klay Thompson.
On the floor, Green has been so good for the Warriors because he’s the very embodiment of their positionless brand of basketball. He’s not only why they have been able to win by playing small ball; he’s the nerve center of their switching defense.
It’s why, when he and Kevin Durant got into an early-season spat, fans were as worried about Green getting traded as losing Durant, though the two aren’t in the same galaxy in terms of talent.
Green’s be-everywhere, fight-everybody mentality — especially in the postseason — though, takes a physical toll. Teams trying to mimic the Warriors’ style would rather draft younger, more athletic Draymonds — Golden State draft pick Eric Paschall has been compared to him ad nauseum — than take on Draymond Classic, so Golden State may not get back in trade the value they place on Green.
Like the Giants and Sandoval, Green’s name, reputation, history and his ability to teach simply have a value here that they wouldn’t have elsewhere.
Just as Green can help to mentor the next generation, so Sandoval can keep Giants fans away from sharp objects, at least for the rest of this season. Anywhere else, he’s just a pinch hitter. Here, he’s a hero.