By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The Cubs and White Sox may be honing in on some similar free agents this fall and winter, and one they will both keep an eye on will be performing in the World Series this week. Free-spirited Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval has been a sight to watch. Since participating in his first postgame series during 2010, Sandoval has batted .325 with an on-base percentage of .372, while slugging .548 (that includes through the end of this year’s NLCS). That makes for a robust .920 OPS in 32 playoff games.READ MORE: Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy Confirms Justin Fields Has Cracked Ribs, Denies Latest Round Of Rumors
Projecting Sandoval into the picture for either the White Sox or Cubs begins with the premise that both Chicago baseball clubs need left-handed power added to their lineups for 2015 and beyond. The Cubs have a stable player in Luis Valbuena holding down third base until Kris Bryant is deemed ready by the front office .Valbuena actually hit as many home runs as Sandoval in almost 200 fewer at-bats in 2014. That said, if the Cubs were to chase and perhaps add a middle-of-the-order switch-hitter such as Sandoval, the arrow would be pointing toward left field for the talented Bryant come spring training.
The White Sox have the capable Conor Gillaspie manning the hot corner for now. In 2014, Gillaspie raised his batting average 37 points (to .282 after hitting .245 in 2013) and played at least an average third base after working diligently with infield instructor Joe McEwing all season. That would be just fine for a second baseman, but 50 runs scored and 57 RBIs just aren’t sufficient for a third baseman in 507 at-bats.
Time may be starting to get short for 24-year-old Matt Davidson to show he can hit in the big leagues. Davidson had a hugely disappointing Triple-A campaign in 2014, with a line of .199/20/55. Making projections even more difficult for the White Sox were Davidson’s 164 strikeouts and an abysmal.283 on-base percentage.
Now that we have made a case for adding a power bat for both the Cubs and White Sox, let’s examine Sandoval a bit closer. Sandoval first must be projected outside of the NL West and its cavernous ballparks (three of the biggest seven ballparks in baseball are home to NL West teams). In 2009, Sandoval had his best power stats, hitting 25 home runs and driving in 90. Since his breakout season, Sandoval has averaged just shy of 16 home runs and 70 RBIs in the past five years. Outside of San Francisco’s AT&T Park, it would be easy to project Sandoval for seven to 10 more homers per season in a place like Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Field.READ MORE: Former Chicago Bear Dan Hampton Faces Driving While Intoxicated Charge After Recent In Northwest Indiana
It could be that neither White Sox general manager Rick Hahn nor Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein wants to make a long-term commitment to the less-than-svelte Sandoval. Despite middle-of-the-road rote numbers, with all things considered, you might want to look at the career .346 o- base percentage and the vast improvement the 28-year-old Sandoval made at his position in 2014. Many observers believe Sandoval will be getting some play for the Gold Glove award this offseason. He cut his errors from 18 to 11 in 2014.
Sandoval’s weight issue is going to be a major concern for any team that seriously considers signing him. After getting his weight down in 2012-’13, the rotund third baseman blew up again in 2014. He’s listed around 246 pounds, but you can easily see another 20 on his frame right now.
Still, Sandoval loves the game and is considered a solid locker room influence. Committing to a five-year deal worth $80 million to $90 million will most likely be the going rate for his services.
Adding a switch-hitting power bat behind Anthony Rizzo on the North Side or Jose Abreu on the South Side will be a primary goal of the duos of Epstein/Jed Hoyer and Hahn/Kenny Williams. Sandoval remains an alluring target, with free agency set to begin shortly after the World Series comes to a close.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Slight Warm Up On The Way
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.