The Toronto Blue Jays are making a last-minute notable addition to the Spring Training list of invites by signing a former SF Giants second baseman and fan-favorite to a minor-league deal.
Former SF Giants second baseman Joe Panik is returning to the Blue Jays after spending the 2020 campaign with Toronto, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. The deal includes a base salary of $1.85 million with $400,000 in incentives if he makes the club.
SF Giants fan-favorite returns to the Blue Jays
Giants fans fondly remember Panik’s tenure in San Francisco. The left-handed bat was drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft out of St. John’s University in Queens, New York. He made a gradual ascent through the minor league ranks while posting a .762 in parts of eight minor-league seasons. This included a 9.8 percent strikeout rate, so Panik always demonstrated good bat-to-ball skills.
He debuted with the Giants in 2014 nearly out of desperation. Brandon Hicks, Joaquin Arias, and Ehire Adrianza saw time at second, but none of the three took hold of the job. Dan Uggla had a brief stint with the Giants, but that proved to be disastrous before turning to Panik.
In his rookie campaign, Panik slashed .305/.343/.368 (105 OPS+) with one home run and 18 RBI in 287 plate appearances while playing excellent defense. This included an incredible play that helped the Giants clinch the 2014 World Series:
Over the next several seasons, Panik added to his resume with a National League All-Star nod (2015) and a Gold Glove Award (2016) at second base. However, injuries took a toll on his career as he battled a nagging back injury and a concussion.
By 2019, Panik struggled to contribute at the plate and his range at second took a noticeable step back. After posting a .627 OPS in 388 plate appearances, the Giants designated him for assignment in favor of Scooter Gennett.
He finished the 2019 season with the New York Mets where he showed much better production at the plate with a .738 OPS, albeit in a small sample of only 103 plate appearances.
He joined Toronto last season and struggled to the tune of a .640 OPS. That said, he brought a versatile glove to the table as he saw time at second base, shortstop, and third base.
With the addition of Marcus Semien and the presence of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it is a loaded infield but one that is short on left-handed options. The former SF Giants’ second baseman has a shot of sneaking on to the roster as a utility bat from the left side, but he will need to perform in Spring Training first.