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Giants, Hunter Pence agree to five-year, $90 million extension

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UPDATE: Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com hears that Pence’s new deal will include a no-trade clause.

1:30 p.m. ET: Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the two sides have agreed to a deal, pending a physical.

1:28 p.m. ET: FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that it would be a five-year, $90 million deal.

1:18 p.m. ET: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Giants and Pence are “closing in” on a $90 million deal. The contract would carry an AAV (average annual value) of $18 million per season, topping Andre Ethier’s five-year, $85 million ($17 million AAV) extension from last year. Pence’s new deal will likely set the bar for free agent outfielders like Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury this winter.

10:08 a.m. ET: Hunter Pence is poised to do quite well in free agency this winter, but it’s possible he’ll come to an agreement with the Giants before getting a chance to hit the open market.

In an unusual scene, Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports that Pence and Giants president Larry Baer had a long discussion in the clubhouse “within earshot of reporters” after last night’s game in which they appeared to be discussing a new contract. Baer merely said that he was congratulating Pence for winning the team’s Willie Mac Award, given annually to the team’s most inspirational player, but the impending free agent confirmed that the two sides are discussing a contract and that a deal could be imminent.

“They’re about to get back to me, seriously,” Pence said. “So we’re either really close or really far away.”

Like, close as in he could reach an agreement before everyone scatters for the winter on Sunday?

“Yeah,” Pence said. “I’ll know shortly. We’ll just say we’re talking, I guess.”

His quotes came hours after general manager Brian Sabean called re-signing Pence the first priority among the “heavy lifting” prior to the start of the free agency period. The club also hopes to retain Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez.

Pence has enjoyed one of his best seasons this year, batting .282/.339/.481 with 26 home runs and 94 RBI over 160 games. The 30-year-old has previously said that he would pass up free agency to sign a multi-year deal with the Giants, but he’s obviously not going to come cheaply.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.