There won’t be any Kung Fu Panda hats at Citizens Bank Park in 2020.
Jon Heyman of RADIO.COM says that the Philadelphia Phillies, along with the division-rival New York Mets, did make an attempt to land Pablo Sandoval in free agency. Instead, Heyman says that the 33-year-old infielder will return to the San Francisco Giants on a minor-league deal that will guarantee him $2 million if he makes the team’s major league roster out of Spring Training.
It’s unclear what the Phillies offer may have looked like, if things reached the point of a formal offer being made at all. It is worth noting that if the Phillies lose their arbitration cases with J.T. Realmuto and Hector Neris, Phillies Nation‘s Jonny Heller estimates that they’ll have just $3.5 million below the luxury tax threshold. $2 million – or perhaps more to actually land him – would have eaten into that remaining money. (The Phillies aren’t obligated to stay below the luxury tax threshold, for what it’s worth.)
Heyman says that the expectation is that Sandoval will make the Giants Opening Day roster if he is able demonstrate that he’s fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery that he underwent last September. Perhaps Sandoval felt better about his chances to make the Giants roster than the Phillies or Mets, both of whom are expected to contend for the playoffs.
There’s also a comfort in San Francisco for Sandoval that may not exist elsewhere. After the 2014 season, Sandoval left the bay area to sign a five-year/$90 million free-agent deal with the Boston Red Sox. The deal was such a disaster that the Red Sox released him in July of 2017.
Sandoval has since returned to the Giants, where he’s found a second life as a utility man. In 272 at-bats for the Giants in 2019, Sandoval slashed .268/.313/.507 with 14 home runs, 41 RBIs and a 1.0 fWAR.
The Phillies interest in Sandoval does make you wonder if they would still like to make another addition to their bench. Brad Miller, who homered 12 times in 118 at-bats for the Phillies in 2019, remains a free agent. It’s unclear if it will take a guaranteed major-league deal to bring him back.
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