A former SF Giants third baseman and fan favorite is re-signing with the Atlanta Braves following a brief stint at the end of 2020.
According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Pablo Sandoval is returning to the Braves on a minor-league pact. If he makes the club, he will earn $1 million. The move gives the Braves added third base depth, which is a position that registered a rough .708 OPS last season.
Pablo Sandoval with the SF Giants
The switch-hitter began last year with the SF Giants, but slashed just .220/.278/.268 (53 OPS+) with one double, one home run, and six RBI across 90 plate appearances before being placed on waivers.
He caught on with the Braves at the end of the year and collected four plate appearances in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves pushed the Dodgers to seven games in the NLCS, but Los Angeles squeaked by with a victory in a pivotal Game 7 matchup.
Given his struggles in 2020, it was fair to wonder if the 34-year-old had played his last major league game. However, Sandoval is just one year removed from producing an .820 OPS in 296 plate appearances while playing a competent third base and being worth 1.5 WAR.
Of course, Giants fans remember Sandoval for his role during the championship run. This included a historic three-home run performance in Game 1 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers in 2012:
On top of this, the longtime Giants third baseman slashed .366/.423/.465 in 78 plate appearances in the 2014 playoffs. Without his contributions, San Francisco might not have brought that trophy home. There is no doubt that he is one of the great Giants in San Francisco’s long history, and he elevated his game when it mattered most.
Now, Sandoval will look to continue his career in 2021. Young right-handed bat Austin Riley saw the bulk of the playing time at the hot corner last season and will likely enter the season as the presumptive starter.
That said, Sandoval will compete with another switch-hitter in Johan Camargo for at-bats at third base as well. The 34-year-old has experience at first base as well, but there will not be many at-bats available at that position with Freddie Freeman holding down the fort.
Sandoval has produced an .817 OPS in his career against right-handed pitching, so he will need to continue to do well in those matchups to carve out a role in 2021. The good news is that baseball fans will continue to see Sandoval’s joyous personality on the baseball field next year.