Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Panda back with Giants; Yolmer, Ruf also sign

@mi_guardado
January 31, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Panda is back. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval agreed to re-sign with the Giants on a Minor League deal, the club announced on Friday. Also signed to Minor League deals that include invites to Spring Training were infielder Yolmer Sánchez and infielder/outfielder Darin Ruf. MLB Network insider

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Panda is back.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval agreed to re-sign with the Giants on a Minor League deal, the club announced on Friday. Also signed to Minor League deals that include invites to Spring Training were infielder Yolmer Sánchez and infielder/outfielder Darin Ruf. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Sandoval's deal is worth $2 million and includes $750,000 in incentives.

Sandoval, who became a beloved figure in San Francisco after helping spur the Giants to three World Series championships in the 2010s, is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he could reprise his role as the club’s backup corner infielder if he recovers as expected.

Sandoval, 33, hit .268 with an .820 OPS and 14 home runs in 108 games for the Giants in 2019, the final year of the five-year, $95 million contract he originally signed with the Red Sox in November 2014. While he burned his share of bridges on his way to Boston, Sandoval thrived in his second stint with San Francisco, embracing a reserve role and emerging as a key weapon off the bench.

Still, a reunion with the Giants wasn’t guaranteed, especially after Sandoval landed on the injured list with right elbow inflammation in August. He eventually opted to undergo Tommy John surgery, but not before coming off the IL on Sept. 1 to take one final at-bat under former manager Bruce Bochy, the man he regards as a second father. An emotional Sandoval received a standing ovation from fans at Oracle Park that afternoon, though he remained hopeful that it wouldn’t go down as his final moment as a Giant.

“I know I’m going to be a free agent, but I want to be here the rest of my career,” Sandoval said at the time. “I don’t make those decisions, so I just want to enjoy this moment, enjoy this day.”

At the outset of his free agency, Sandoval appeared to be a better fit for an American League club that could use him as a designated hitter as he continued to rehab his right elbow, but the Giants kept an opening for the switch-hitting infielder on their roster and maintained contact throughout the offseason. If he’s healthy, Sandoval will give the Giants depth behind third baseman Evan Longoria and first baseman Brandon Belt, as well as much-needed power from the left side.

The Phillies and Mets also pursued Sandoval, according to Heyman, but in the end, he chose to remain at home with the Giants.

Sánchez, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, turned down two Major League offers to join the Giants, who intend to give him an opportunity to win the starting job at second base. Infield prospect Mauricio Dubón, who was acquired from the Brewers in exchange for Drew Pomeranz at last year’s Trade Deadline, appeared in line to become the primary second baseman this year, but he has enough versatility to play at multiple spots and could even see time in the outfield.

Veteran Donovan Solano and Kean Wong, who was claimed off waivers from the Angels in November, are both expected to be in the Giants’ second-base mix this spring.

Sánchez, 27, tallied 11 Defensive Runs Saved en route to winning the American League Gold Glove Award at second base last season, but he became a free agent after he was non-tendered by the White Sox in December. A switch-hitter, Sánchez batted .244 with a .656 OPS and 31 home runs over parts of six Major League seasons with Chicago.

While his offense dipped in each of the last two seasons, Sánchez remained effective against left-handed pitchers, posting a .738 OPS over 131 plate appearances in 2019. Sánchez’s glove-first profile is reminiscent of Joe Panik, who opened last season as the Giants’ second baseman but was released in August after a prolonged decline at the plate.

Ruf, 33, has hit .240/.314/.433 with 35 homers in 286 Major League games spanning five seasons with the Phillies.

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