Giants designate Pablo Sandoval for assignment

Move opens up a spot for Justin Smoak

Two-time MLB All-Star and three-time World Series champ Pablo Sandoval may have played his final game as a San Francisco Giant. The free-swinging 34-year-old was designated for assignment Thursday, opening up a roster spot for newly-acquired Justin Smoak. San Francisco could potentially retain the switch-hitting infielder as minor-league depth if he passes through waivers unclaimed, though the more likely scenario is that the Giants will simply release him.

Sandoval hasn’t brought much to the table this year, hitting an anemic .220 with one homer and six RBI over 82 largely unproductive at-bats. Just two of the Panda’s 18 hits this year have gone for extra bases. Never known for his glove work, the former World Series MVP has largely been relegated to DHing for the Giants, who have won five straight while moving up to seventh in the National League standings. With MLB expanding its postseason to 16 teams (eight for each league), that puts the Giants in playoff position.

Known for his girth (he’s listed at a full-figured 268 pounds) and reckless plate approach, Sandoval was a fan favorite throughout his two tenures in San Francisco, the first one lasting from 2008-14. Sandoval finished runner-up to Hanley Ramirez for the National League batting title during his breakout 2009, a year he set career-highs in home runs (25), RBI (90) and slugging percentage (.556). The veteran had also been a clutch playoff performer for the Giants, contributing a .302/.357/.471 batting line across 154 postseason at-bats.

Sandoval left the Giants in free agency after being poached by Boston on a five-year, $90-million contract in 2014, but he never panned out for the Red Sox, struggling mightily in his two-plus seasons with Boston. He eventually resurfaced in San Francisco, settling in as a backup infielder for the Giants.

The Venezuelan showed signs of life with a resurgent 2019 (.268, 14 HR in 272 at-bats), but has underwhelmed in limited at-bats since play resumed following a four-month COVID delay. Even with Sandoval in steep decline, the Giants haven’t struggled to put runs on the board under first-year manager Gabe Kapler, ranking among the league’s top five in hits (409, first), doubles (81, fifth), runs scored (234, fourth), RBI (228, fourth), average (.271, second) and total bases (694, fifth).

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