The Hot Stove season will heat up next week when representatives of one of the most highly sought-after offensive threats, former San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, meets with four teams.
According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, the 28-year-old switch-hitter’s camp is set to meet with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and the team he has spent his entire big league career with, the Giants. Last season, while leading San Francisco to its third World Series championship in five years, Sandoval batted .400 in the National League Championship Series and a red-hot .429 in the Fall Classic.
During the regular season, Sandoval batted .279/.324/.415 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs, appearing in a career-high 157 games for the Giants. He rejected a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer from the club last week, and reportedly declined an extension offer early in the season, as well, although most still view the Giants as a front-runner in the bidding for his services. However, according to Cotillo and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Red Sox have made adding Sandoval one of its top priorities this offseason.
The Red Sox need a third baseman. They hope Will Middlebrooks develops into the power hitter they feel he can be, but they won’t just hand him the job. The Sox don’t feel Garin Cecchini is ready yet, either. Brock Holt will have a utility role, but third base is probably his weakest position.
Given Sandoval is heading into his age 29 season, his demands – which reportedly are somewhere in the range of five-to-six years and at least $100 million – seem more reasonable. Cotillo reported earlier this week that Sandoval’s camp isn’t necessarily stuck on a deal of a specific length, but rather a good fit for the third baseman. His agent, Gustavo Vasquez, told Cotillo that he is “looking for the best deal for Pablo.”
As Cafardo himself points out, the infielder’s weight issues – which have long been documented by those in the baseball world – are still a concern for some teams, including the Giants.
A career .429 postseason hitter, Sandoval is a fan-favorite in San Francisco, but could be enticed by playing for the Red Sox – one of baseball’s most storied franchises – one that has also won a trio of World Series in the last decade. Regardless of where he lands, the weakness of the free agent market at his position will no doubt benefit Sandoval.
Sandoval could accept less to stay where the fans love him and where he is comfortable. But this is also his big chance for a payday. While the playoffs were still young, a Giants official told me they weren’t considering more than a three-year offer because of Sandoval’s weight issues, which are likely to get worse as he gets older. But that three-year limit has likely changed after another memorable postseason. Fan backlash from losing Sandoval would be severe.
Whether or not a team can pony up enough cash to lure Sandoval away from his beloved San Francisco remains to be seen. However, with the Red Sox – as well as the White Sox and Blue Jays – in the mix, one thing is already abundantly clear heading into next week’s GM meetings: Sandoval will face no shortage of options this winter in free agency.