It's time for the Giants to trade Pablo Sandoval. Let him be somebody else's problem.
That will upset Giants fans, of course. The “Panda” has been a favorite since he first arrived, a lovable young player with surprising agility in the field and an ability to hit pitches off his shoes for home runs.
But he's not the same player now. His inability to control his eating has led to an enormous weight gain—– estimates run to as high as 60 pounds overweight — which has affected both his durability and power.
He hasn't played anything close to a full season since 2010 and he won't this year, either, because of injuries brought on by his uncontrolled appetite. That will only get worse as he gets older.
Though he hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series in the fall, he's no longer a consistent power hitter. His swing-at-anything batting style has probably contributed because pitchers know they don't have to throw strikes to get him to swing. He's a good bad-ball hitter, but it's impossible to be a consistent hitter if you seldom see a pitch in a good hitting zone.
Injuries limited him to 108 games last year, in which he hit 12 homers. This year, he has played in 83 games and hit nine homers. I'm sorry, but that's not a power hitter. His average has declined since the .315 he hit two years ago; he's at .269 now.
Sandoval will be 27 next month, and the 27-32 years are supposed to be the most productive for a hitter. But everything he's doing now points to a player who is already in decline. He may not even have a career after 30. He has one year left on a three-year contract that is paying him a little more than $5 million this year and bumps to more than $8 million next season.
The Giants have sufficient evidence to see they won't want to re-sign him when he becomes a free agent. I repeat: Let him be some other club's problem. I'm sure there are clubs who think one more hitter could get them into the postseason so they'd be willing to gamble on Sandoval.
This will go against the pattern which has been established by Giants general manager Brian Sabean, who has been a buyer, not seller at midseason. But Sabean can surely see what's happening: In the last 60 games, the Giants have the worst record in baseball. They're playing in a mediocre division, so they've stayed relatively close, but the Dodgers have got it together now and will probably win the NL West easily. After losing three of four to the Cincinnati Reds, the Giants are 17-34 against teams outside the NL West and they'll have a long string of those games now.
Meanwhile, the minor-league system has no prospects who seem capable of hitting home runs, so any trade of Sandoval should involve prospects who are power hitters.
With Barry Zito's obscene $20 million-a-year contract coming off the books, the Giants may have enough money to go after a free agent power hitter in the offseason. So it's time to start thinking of 2014 with a Sandoval trade.