Mensching: Pablo Sandoval, Tigers might be a fit

Kurt Mensching

Kung Fu Panda a Tiger? As costly and unlikely as Pablo Sandoval ending up in Detroit might be, you can't deny that there are more than a few reasons such a move makes some sense.

A pair of stories in the past week aligned on the subject of the Tigers' third base situation, a woeful one currently occupied by 22-year-old Nick Castellanos.

ESPN.com's Dave Schoenfield ranked each team by its worst position, judging by wins below average, and the Tigers won — er, lost — with third base worth 3.7 wins below average by Baseball Reference's formula.

Castellanos, who batted .259 with a .306 on-base percentage and .394 slugging average in his first full regular season, gets the lion's share of the blame for that. Castellanos' batting average and power are actually a little bit above average compared to all American League third basemen, but a Sabermetric look sketches a player who hits worse than his peers.

Add to that the fact Castellanos' defensive runs above replacement ranked worst in the majors, as Schoenfield noted, at -30, and you've got a big problem. For comparison, Miguel Cabrera's DRS at third base in 2013 was -18.

The Tigers' hope has to be that with a year under his belt, Castellanos will improve in both areas. After all, it was his first year back in the infield after being shifted to the outfield in his 2012 minor league season, and there's a bit of a learning curve in adjusting to major league pitching.

But if you're looking for a place the Tigers can make an improvement, that's your spot.

That's where Sandoval comes in.

Making the case

In an article published Saturday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tried to find a new home for each of the 10 biggest-name free agents of this offseason.

He's got Max Scherzer headed across Lake Michigan to the Brewers, and Victor Martinez headed west to join the Mariners.

A team expected to try again for a World Series title in 2015, the Tigers would be the ideal franchise for Sandoval's services, Sherman believes.

"The Tigers had the second-fewest homers by lefties last year with (free agent Victor) Martinez," Sherman wrote. "Sandoval is not a huge power threat, but his switch-hitting bat provides some replacement for Martinez."

Although Sandoval isn't a big slugger himself, batting .279 with 16 home runs last year in a pitchers' park, he's an upgrade over Castellanos. In the field, and despite being a 5-foot-11, 245-pound man who does not have the appearance of a slick fielder, Sandoval really separates himself. He's actually above-average with the glove, making him about 4.5 wins above average better than Castellanos.

The problem with this line of thinking is that Sandoval's going to be a pricey addition. His agent recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that the 28-year-old is seeking a six-year deal and hoping to eclipse $100 million guaranteed.

That might be a little too much for the Tigers — who found themselves below average at seven positions, including the bullpen, and who'll need to re-sign the best designated hitter in baseball in 2014 or find a suitable alternative — to spend all in one place.

And they might not be ready to give up on Castellanos after one year at third base, although president and general manager Dave Dombrowski did note during his end-of-season press conference that Castellanos has to show improvement in the field.

It's probably not going to happen, but if the Tigers are looking to make a big splash this offseason, Kung Fu Panda can certainly provide them one.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com.