The Giants are discussing trade scenarios involving Joe Panik with multiple clubs, tweets ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who notes that the infield market is beginning to pick up some steam (as evidenced by this morning’s agreement between Brian Dozier and the Nationals). In a related report, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the Giants are among the teams showing interest in free-agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu.
It stands to reason that if the Giants have serious interest in bringing LeMahieu on board, they’d first need to move Panik. Both are pure second basemen at this juncture of their respective careers, and even if the Giants had interest in slotting LeMahieu or Panik in at a different position on the infield, third base and shortstop are locked up by Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford — neither of whom is particularly movable on the trade market (Longoria primarily for financial reasons and Crawford due largely to a full no-trade clause).
Panik, 28, already avoided arbitration earlier this offseason by agreeing to a one-year, $3.8MM contract. He’s coming off the worst offensive season of his career, having batted .254/.307/.332 with just four home runs in 392 plate appearances — production that rated 23 to 25 percent worse than that of a league-average hitter, based on park-neutral metrics (77 OPS+, 75 wRC+). Panik was a Gold Glover in 2016 and was generally regarded as a plus defender at second base, but his defensive ratings have also slipped in recent seasons. He’s only a year removed from a productive season at the plate, however, as he hit .288/.347/.421 with 10 long balls in 2017 before thumb and groin injuries hindered his playing time last season.
As for LeMahieu, he’s perennially among the game’s premier defensive second baseman and has consistently hit for average, though his overall production has wavered somewhat on a year-over-year basis. LeMahieu won a surprise National League batting title when he hit .348/.416/.495 in a career year back in 2016, but while he followed that up with a high-quality .310 average in 2017, his power fell off, as he slugged just .409 that season and posted a .099 ISO (slugging minus batting average). This past season, most of his pop returned, but his overall output checked in at .276/.321/.428 — rather pedestrian production when considering his hitter-friendly home setting (86 wRC+).
All in all, LeMahieu generally rates as an average or better overall hitter with premium defensive skills. He’s batted a combined .309/.369/.429 across the past four seasons and been one of the toughest strikeouts in the league over that span, punching out in just 14.2 percent of his plate appearances. LeMahieu would provide the Giants with better defense than they expected from Panik even at his peak, and he’d bring a more reliable bat to the table as well — albeit at a considerably higher price point. His past production makes LeMahieu an easy candidate for a solid multi-year deal in free agency, though he won’t cost the Giants anything in terms of draft-pick compensation, as the Rockies did not issue him a qualifying offer at season’s end.