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Inbox: What is Panda's role with Giants in 2020?

@mi_guardado
January 31, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants brought back a familiar face earlier this week, re-signing third baseman Pablo Sandoval to a Minor League contract on Wednesday. Could a reunion with fellow fan favorite Hunter Pence be next? Let’s dig into that and more in this week’s Giants Inbox.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants brought back a familiar face earlier this week, re-signing third baseman Pablo Sandoval to a Minor League contract on Wednesday. Could a reunion with fellow fan favorite Hunter Pence be next? Let’s dig into that and more in this week’s Giants Inbox.

Assuming he’s healthy, I think Sandoval will end up settling into a role similar to the one he held last year, backing up Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt at the corner infield spots while also drawing a fair number of at-bats as a pinch-hitter. He seems unlikely to be ready by Opening Day, however, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in September to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and remove loose bodies. Sandoval’s recovery appears to be going well by all accounts, but position players typically require 9-10 months of rehab before they’re able to return to action, so he might be forced to miss the beginning of the season.

My colleague Mark Feinsand reported that Yolmer Sánchez turned down two Major League offers to sign with the Giants earlier this week, so he must feel good about his chances of winning the starting job at second base this spring. That role initially seemed to be earmarked for Mauricio Dubón, who performed well in his extended audition with the Giants last year, but he’ll now face competition from Sánchez, the American League Gold Glove winner at second base last year.

I agree that Sánchez’s arrival likely telegraphs the Giants’ desire to develop Dubón into a super utility player who can start at both middle infield spots as well as the outfield. Versatility has become more of an emphasis for the Giants under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them try to maximize that skill on their 2020 roster.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the Giants are among the teams showing interest in Pence, whose tenure with San Francisco seemed to come to an end when he rode off on his scooter after the final game of the 2018 season. Pence enjoyed a resurgent season with the Rangers last year, earning his first All-Star selection since '14, but he primarily served as a designated hitter and appeared in only 83 games due to back trouble.

On the surface, at least, he seems like an odd fit for the Giants, who cited their desire to give young outfielders more opportunities as one of the reasons for non-tendering Kevin Pillar in December. Still, Pence’s appeal would likely be similar to Sandoval’s. Besides offering a big bat off the bench, Pence could help imbue a rebuilding club with veteran leadership and a steady stream of positivity -- all at a minimal cost. Rosters are set to expand from 25 to 26 players this season, so that could also give the Giants more flexibility to work someone like Pence onto their squad.

I don’t have any intel at the moment, but I don’t think the Giants are done making moves this offseason. They haven’t done much in terms of upgrading their offense, so that will have to be addressed at some point.

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.