KANSAS CITY – Once again, Pablo Sandoval proved that he is a big money player in October. Now the bill comes due.
After a record-setting postseason in which he collected 26 hits, including three in Wednesday night’s 3-2, World Series clinching Game 7 victory at Kauffman Stadium, and then splashed flat on his back in the grass in blissful repose after catching the final out in foul territory, Sandoval will become a free agent.
The Giants want him back. They know that desire guarantees nothing, though.
“Look, we’ll do the best we can,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said. “And up till now, the best we can has been to secure our guys.”
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The Giants were due to land back in San Francisco after 4 a.m. Thursday. GM Brian Sabean will meet with ownership and members of his baseball staff that afternoon. There’s no luxury to rest when you win Game 7 of the World Series. The offseason begins before you pop the first cork.
“Pablo’s at the top of that list. We all know it,” Sabean said. “Every negotiation is different. Every intention on the part of the player is different. I know we love Pablo and he loves the Giants and we’ll see what happens.”
For all the consternation regarding his conditioning, Sandoval made himself into a Gold Glove finalist at third base this season and he continued to come up big when it mattered most. He has a .344 batting average in the postseason and hit .366 this October with six doubles, five RBIs and 12 runs scored in 17 games. His 26 hits this month established a major league record for one postseason, passing up the previous record of 25 held by Marquis Grissom and Darin Erstad.
In 12 career World Series games, Sandoval is batting .426 with four doubles, three home runs, eight RBIs and nine runs scored. He didn’t crush three home runs this time, like he did in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series on the way to MVP honors, but he reached safely in all four plate appearances Wednesday – including three times when leading off an inning — and scored two of the Giants’ three runs.
“I just love being under pressure and trying to doing my job,” said Sandoval whose final out pose will be replayed for years and years. “I just try to do the best I can. I do love (San Francisco). I love my teammates and the fans. They deserve this. This opportunity the Giants organization gave to me to be here, to learn the game, it’s so exciting.”
Asked about his free agency, he said, “I’m just going to celebrate.”
The buzz will wear off soon enough. The Giants offered Sandoval a three-year, $40 million contract in the spring that was rejected by his camp, who hoped to start negotiations nearer to the five-year, $90 million deal that Hunter Pence received after last season. It’s clear the Giants will increase their offer now. It’s less clear how far Sandoval’s expectations will go up.
The Boston Red Sox, especially, are keen on improving at third base and have money to spend. They also have a DH spot that they could use at some point in the future, allowing them to guarantee more years to Sandoval than an NL club might be comfortable offering.
But there is a downside to signing with the Red Sox, particularly for players who don’t get off to a good start. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford know something about that. Sandoval is beloved in San Francisco, which club officials hope will count for something.
“Pablo’s an amazing baseball player,” Baer said. “He’s a sweet guy. He plays the game like a kid but he’s a man’s man. We all know he’s got a lot of talent and we all know you go through highs and lows with a player. In the end, he’s a heck of a baseball player and he fits in this crazy quilt framework of ours really well. Having said that, you can’t predict free agency, and other teams, and agents and everything. So we’ll see.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy made it clear what his preference would be.
“Great players, they have a way of rising to the occasion. He did that,” Bochy said. “You could see a difference in Pablo once the postseason started. His focus, his third base play was as good as I’ve seen from any third baseman. That’s what I’m proud of about him, is how he made himself such a good defender.
“As for what happens, I don’t know. It’s obvious I love this kid, too. I’ve had him since he came up, and hopefully something gets done, but these are things that take care of themselves in the winter.”
Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong and Sergio Romo also are expected to file for free agency; the Giants have had preliminary discussions with Peavy about coming back, but have not discussed parameters of a deal.