As the San Francisco Giants turn the page on the 2013 season, it is time to look beyond at how the Giants will fare in the coming years. One of the biggest issues I see arising is the potential for a logjam at the catcher, first, and third base positions. Buster Posey will be a franchise cornerstone for years to come; the Giants saw to that by handing him a gaudy nine-year extension, but will he spend all nine of those seasons behind the dish playing catcher?
Posey is capable of playing first base, but the Giants already have a promising player in Brandon Belt at that position. And what about Pablo Sandoval? Will he have a big season next year, prompting the Giants to sign him long-term? To fully break this down, let’s examine the three most likely scenarios.
1. The Giants move Posey to first, retain Sandoval, move Belt to the outfield, and allow top catching prospect Andrew Susac to take over behind the plate.
The Giants have a promising young catching prospect in the minors right now in Susac. Though I have never gotten the chance to see him play, the hype surrounding him has me believing he may the catcher of the future. If that happens, the Giants would be able to move Posey permanently to first base. Assuming Sandoval sheds his weight issues and has a big year, the Giants would retain him, as he is a fan favorite, and keep him at third base.
This situation would force the Giants to move Belt to the outfield, where he is a significantly worse defender than when he is at first. Although this situation would allow the Giants to keep all of their most talented hitters in the lineup, this alignment would be cause for a defensive downgrade at first base and left field. I am a supporter of this situation only if Belt learns to be an average major league defender in left field. In that case, the offensive production this lineup provides would offset the defensive void.
2. The Giants move Posey to third base, allow Susac to take over at catcher, and let Sandoval walk
The alternative to the first plan would be to let Sandoval leave via free agency, freeing up the Giants to cultivate Posey for a permanent move to third base, keep Belt at his natural first base position and allow Susac to permanently take over behind the plate. This plan, unlike the first, could take a longer time for the Giants to reap the benefits, as Posey would need some time to learn to play third base, and Susac would need the time to develop into enough of a hitting threat to replace Sandoval’s offensive production. While this alternative could potentially play out well, it would likely take more growing pains than the Giants would want to deal with.
3. The Giants keep Posey behind the plate, keep Sandoval and Belt at their natural positions, and trade Susac
This scenario is essentially allowing things to remain the way they are now. In this case, Sandoval has a big year in 2014, and Belt continues to develop into one of the top first basemen in the league, forcing the Giants to keep them both. Additionally, the Giants decide that Posey’s value comes from playing at catcher, where he can be the solid defensive anchor of the starting rotation while still continuing to be an elite offensive option. Because of the presence of Posey, there is no room for Susac at the major league level, allowing the Giants to trade him to fill other areas of need. I would say this scenario could potentially happen if Posey remains relatively healthy next year, allowing the Giants to make the decision to keep him behind the plate permanently.
Each of these scenarios provides advantages and disadvantages.
The first would allow the Giants to keep all three of their offensive cornerstones, but hinges on their ability to retain Pablo Sandoval and the quick learning curve on a still very young player in Andrew Susac.
The second could pay dividends, as it would give some more time for Susac to develop, keep Posey’s legs fresh, and keep Belt at the position where he is among the league’s best defenders; however, as stated previously, this plan could take a couple of years to come to fruition, especially if Hunter Pence doesn’t resign and they are unable to fill the offensive void left by him and Sandoval.
The third gives the Giants the opportunity to keep Posey, Sandoval, and Belt at the positions where they play best defensively and trade Andrew Susac to fill other areas of more pressing need; however, this scenario means investing faith in Posey’s ability to stay healthy and fresh throughout the duration of his career, a situation I’m not sure is plausible.
As of right now, I think the first scenario is the most likely to happen, especially if the Panda and Belt have huge years next year. This situation allows the Giants to keep their two up-and-coming sluggers and keep Posey fresh to continue to be their offensive catalyst. Although, plenty can change in the next couple of years; one can never be too sure.