How Pablo Sandoval's Tommy John surgery could affect his free-agency options

How Pablo Sandoval's Tommy John surgery could affect his free-agency options

Pablo Sandoval's offseason took a dramatic turn with the announcement Saturday that he needs Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

The 32-year-old Giants infielder is scheduled to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

A healthy Sandoval might have been coveted by all 30 major league teams. He can play first and third base. He can come through with a much-needed pinch-hit. And he even can pitch an occasional inning.

But now, Sandoval won't be able to throw a baseball for most of the 2020 season, meaning he can't play the field or pitch, if need be.

Sandoval could follow in the footsteps of Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani by having the reconstructive elbow surgery and then only hitting next season. But that would require Sandoval to return to the American League, where he could serve as a full-time designated hitter.

That limits Sandoval to 15 potential teams. And of those 15 teams, you can rule out the Boston Red Sox — for obvious reasons.

The A's have Khris Davis, so they don't have a need. The Astros have rookie phenom Yordan Alvarez and All-Star Michael Brantley. If the Rangers don't bring back Hunter Pence, they'll likely use Shin-Soo Choo as the regular DH. Ohtani probably will be able to play the outfield again in 2020, but Albert Pujols has two years left on his contract and can move back to the Angels' DH.

The Twins hold a $12 million team option on Nelson Cruz, and you can expect them to bring him back with his huge power numbers. Cleveland has a revolving door of Jake Bauers, Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes. The Orioles, Tigers and Royals are at the beginning of serious rebuilds, so Sandoval probably has no interest in those teams.

The Yankees could be an option if they don't bring back Edwin Encarnacion. But they have Luke Voit, so they might be a long shot. The Rays just acquired Jesus Aguilar from the Brewers at the July 31 MLB trade deadline, so they are set at DH.

The two teams that could have DH openings are the Blue Jays and the White Sox, though Toronto has Sacramento native Rowdy Tellez, who could slide into that role.

Chicago will lose Jose Abreu in free agency, and holds a $9 million team option on Yonder Alonso. Signing Sandoval likely would be a cheaper option than picking up Alonso's deal.

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As Sandoval heads into a winter of uncertainty, he'd prefer not to go to any of those AL teams.

“I want to come back,” Sandoval told reporters. “I want to be here the rest of my career. It’s not my decision.”

Giants GM Scott Harris details meaningful trip to Wrigley Field bleachers

Giants GM Scott Harris details meaningful trip to Wrigley Field bleachers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Farhan Zaidi has been part of the group moving the bullpens to center field at Oracle Park, but once the season starts, he'll never have an up-close view of the action out there. The front office has a suite on the club level and Zaidi also has an office in the clubhouse, where he can work while watching his Giants. 

If Zaidi is able to accomplish his goal of getting the Giants back to the postseason, though, you might see him out in the bleachers by the new bullpens. His general manager might demand it

Scott Harris was an integral part of the Cubs' baseball operations department when the team won the World Series in 2016, and earlier that year, he played a leading role in a moment that went viral. Harris and other Cubs executives watched a game from the bleachers after the Cubs clinched their division, with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein sporting a fake mustache that made him stand out even more than his fame would have. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Harris explained how he got Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and other Cubs executives to watch a game from Wrigley's wild bleachers. Harris said they generally watched games from the general manager's suite behind the plate and always noticed how much fun fans were having in the bleachers. 

"We were longing for a day when we could actually go out into the bleachers," Harris said. "I kept asking Theo and Jed, 'Hey we should do that one time' or 'Everyone should have the opportunity to go.' They finally said, 'If we win the division, the next day we can all go out to the bleachers.' Sure enough, we won the division and I reminded them via text message that night and we set it up so that we could go sit in the bleachers for that game. 

"We thought we would get away with it for a few innings -- maybe by the seventh inning people would start to catch on. In the very first inning the relievers in the bullpen started pointing at us and then our centerfielder flipped a ball to us. We thought to ourselves, 'Well, our cover is blown.'"

For Harris, hired a week ago to rebuild the organization with Zaidi and Gabe Kapler, it's more than just a funny story and memorable day. It's an example of the kind of leader he wants to be. Asked what stood out about working for Epstein and Hoyer, who finally brought a championship back to Wrigley Field, Harris mentioned their "commitment to culture."

"These are really stressful and very demanding jobs and you often work closely with people for as many as 17 hours a day, so culture is very important, working relationships are very important," Harris said. "You have to work closely together with the people on your baseball ops staff and the president and put yourself in a position to make the right decisions, to make sound baseball decisions one after another after another, to reshape an organization. 

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"They were fully committed to that in Boston (where Epstein won a title). Jed was in San Diego and then both Theo and Jed were in Chicago, and I hope to bring elements of that to San Francisco."

For more of Harris' thoughts on coming to San Francisco, learning from Epstein and Hoyer, developing top prospects, and baseball research and development, you can stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Cubs' Theo Epstein explains why Scott Harris will succeed with Giants

Cubs' Theo Epstein explains why Scott Harris will succeed with Giants

The Giants took plenty of criticism last week for their decision to hire Gabe Kapler as manager, but the week's other big move was met with positive reviews. One of the people who complimented Farhan Zaidi's decision to hire Scott Harris as general manager was the executive who had hoped to keep him around. 

At the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters that he was thrilled for Harris and knew it "was an opportunity he couldn't turn down -- a No. 2 (job) of another storied franchise in his hometown." Harris served as assistant general manager of the Cubs before Zaidi hired him last Sunday. 

"We're thrilled for him, but it was bittersweet," Epstein told NBC Sports Chicago. "We loved working with him and he was a big part of our culture and guys around the major-league team love working with him. It will leave a pretty significant void that we'll have to fill. We'll distribute a lot of his responsibilities around to a few different people internally and re-evaluate as we continue to look outside, if there happens to be the right fit outside the organization, too."

Harris' decision was a loss for the Cubs, who have had other notable departures in the front office since winning the World Series in 2016. There has been speculation within the industry that Epstein will leave the Cubs when his contract expires, which could have led to Jed Hoyer taking over that job and Harris getting Hoyer's GM responsibilities. 

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Harris loved his time in Chicago and called working for Epstein and Hoyer a dream situation for anybody looking to break into the game. He was hired as a 25-year-old in 2012, but seven years later Zaidi called with an offer that was too good to turn down.

"He's got incredible work ethic. He's got significant intellectual capacity, but he's very down to Earth, fun to be around," Epstein said of Harris. "He doesn't tell you how smart he is. He's one of the guys everyone loves going to to share things and pick their brain. He's got a good feel around managing up, managing down, managing laterally, (a) good feel with the players and uniformed personnel. He'll do a really good job over there."