Good news out of the Venezuelan Winter League.
According to Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News, Pablo Sandoval has returned to the starting lineup for Navegantes del Magallanes following a short stay in a local hospital. He was diagnosed with colitis (swelling of the large intestine) but got over the painful symptoms it was causing in just a few days.
Sandoval, a native of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, went 8-for-35 (.229/.325/.343) during the VWL’s regular season. His team is now in the playoffs.
The 26-year-old third baseman batted .283/.342/.447 with 12 home runs, 25 doubles and 63 RBI in 442 plate appearances last year for the World Series-champion Giants. “Kung Fu Panda” owns a solid .303/.353/.490 career batting line in the major leagues.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.