1:00pm: The Giants announced that Sandoval has been placed on release waivers.
12:32pm: The Giants are designating infielder Pablo Sandoval for assignment today, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports (Twitter links). The move will create space for fellow veteran Justin Smoak, who signed with the Giants yesterday.
Sandoval, 34, lasted just two and a half seasons in Boston under an ill-fated five-year deal but surprised many with a resurgent showing upon returning to the Giants after being cut loose. From 2018-19, Sandoval tallied 548 plate appearances over 200 games with his original club, hitting .259/.311/.466 with 23 homers, 33 doubles and a triple. The pendulum swung in the opposite direction in 2020, however, as Sandoval has logged a miserable .220/.278/.268 slash through 90 trips to the plate.
The 33-year-old Smoak hasn’t exactly fared well in 2020 himself, hitting just .186/.262/.381 in 126 plate appearances with the Brewers before being released. Even amid those struggles, however, Smoak has shown much more power at the dish and a better walk rate. He’s been more prone to strikeouts than Sandoval but gives the Giants a better defensive option at first base and more pop on days he serves as designated hitter or a late-game pinch-hitter.
With Sandoval hitting well in 2018-19 and Hunter Pence returning after a resurgent year with his hometown Rangers, Giants fans might’ve had visions of one last productive run from the fan-favorite duo that fueled so much of their “Even Year” dynasty from 2010-14. Both Pence and the Panda struggled mightily in what now looks to have been their San Francisco farewell tours, however, leaving their futures within the game somewhat up in the air.
Had the Giants been languishing in the NL West cellar, perhaps they’d have kept Sandoval around to close out the season. San Francisco, though, has rattled off five straight wins to surge back to current possession of the No. 7 playoff seed in this year’s expanded postseason format. It’s in some ways reminiscent of last year’s July hot streak. Last year’s club wasn’t able to sustain the pace and convert that hot streak into a playoff berth, but the 2020 Giants will look to parlay their current 8-2 stretch into the organization’s first playoff berth since 2016.