Joe Panik is on the disabled list and Kelby Tomlinson isn’t hitting. Between that and the fact that Buster Posey had a day off due to an ailing hip, Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided to go with Operation: Panda at second base for last night’s Giants-Cubs game in Chicago. It worked surprisingly well.
Sandoval came up as a catcher and has played most of his time in the bigs as a third baseman. He served as an emergency second base option for a partial inning for Boston last year, but when you think of him your mind does not immediately think “middle infielder.” With a new lease on baseball life back in San Francisco, however, he’s taken the “team-player” ethos to heart and seems willing to do whatever he’s asked. He recently pitched in relief and, in recent weeks has been taking grounders at second, just in case.
Last night he got the start and, because they are nothing if not hilarious, the Baseball Gods decided to make the ball find Sandoval a couple of times right off the bat. Cubs leadoff hitter Albert Almora Jr. hit a ball to the pitcher Ty Blach that ricocheted to Sandoval. He picked it up with his bare hand, but Almora beat the throw. Next up was Javier Baez, who hit a grounder to second which Sandoval snagged with a dive to his left, pulling a 360 and pegging Baez at first. Watch:
He’d later help turn a double play.
The decision to put Sandoval in the game paid off on offense too, as he went 1-for-3 with a run driven in. His fun did not last all game long, however, as he was lifted in a double switch midway through the game.
The Giants lost because Blach pitched terribly, but the putting Sandoval in at second base was an unexpected win.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.