With parts of 14 seasons in MLB under his belt, and coming off a fourth career World Series championship, Pablo Sandoval has no plans to hang up the spikes. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Saturday afternoon that the "Panda", as Sandoval is affectionately known, intends to continue playing in 2022.
Former SF Giants fan favorite wants to play in 2022
Sandoval was an integral part of the Atlanta Braves' run to the 2021 World Series title despite batting .178 with just four home runs in 73 at-bats. He launched a few clutch home runs in April and was used mainly as a pinch-hitter for his four months on the Braves' roster (starting just six games among the 69 in which he played), but his most important contribution was as a trade piece that brought back eventual World Series MVP Eddie Rosario from the Cleveland. Sandoval was promptly released by Cleveland after they acquired him.
Upon his call-up and Major League debut with the SF Giants in 2008, Sandoval quickly endeared himself to fans with his fun-loving nature, everyman body and preternatural ability to barrel the ball wherever it was pitched - often well outside the strike zone. He was also given his nickname, "Kung Fu Panda", that year by teammates Rich Aurilia and Barry Zito after showcasing surprising agility for someone his size.
Sandoval was an integral part of the SF Giants three World Series championships in five years. As a regular in the lineup from 2009 to 2014, he hit .292/.345/.464 and swatted 103 round trippers with an OPS+ of 124, meaning he performed 24 percent better than the league average.
After sitting the bench for much of the 2010 World Series, Sandoval improved his consistency and didn't miss a game in the 2012 or 2014 postseasons. He earned the World Series MVP in the Giants four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in 2012 on the strength of his three home runs in Game 1, and he batted .429 in the seven-game nail-biter in 2014 before catching the final out of the Series on a foul pop-up.
Sandoval left for a big contract with the Boston Red Sox beginning in 2015, but he didn't live up to their expectations and was released during the 2017 season. The Giants re-signed him and he again thrilled fans with exploits including a walk-off blast in the season finale.
After improvement in 2018, the Panda experienced a resurgence for the 2019 Giants with a .268/.313/.507 line and 14 homers in just 207 at-bats. San Francisco released him in September of 2020 and the Braves picked him up before a playoff run that ended in the NLCS.
A career .278 hitter with 153 home runs (135 coming in orange and black), Sandoval turned 35 years old in August. It remains to be seen how much interest he'll draw, but the fan favorite is playing winter ball in his native Venezuela this offseason for the first time since 2012-13 to show what he can still do.