Giants

Why are the Giants reportedly gambling on a Pablo Sandoval reunion?

Why are the Giants reportedly gambling on a Pablo Sandoval reunion?

SAN FRANCISCO — A day after Pablo Sandoval was designated for assignment, Bruce Bochy was asked about his former third baseman. He said he thinks “the world of Pablo.”

“He’ll be fine,” Bochy added. “He’s got enough to live on.”

Bochy gave no indication he was ready for a reunion. Behind closed doors, many added that they didn’t want one, period. For two days over the weekend, I chatted with players and team employees about the possibility of Sandoval returning. I didn’t find one who was eager for the move. 

Someone, and someone important, apparently did. 

According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Sandoval and the Giants will agree to a minor league deal. Giants officials declined comment Wednesday afternoon because Sandoval still has not cleared waivers. Sanchez and Heyman are as good as it gets, however, so we must ask the next question: “Why?”

Why do the Giants, in last place, possibly headed for their worst season ever and a rebuild, feel it’s a good idea to bring back a player who hasn’t had a good season since leaving in 2014 and left a scorched earth trail on his way to Boston?

Perhaps the reason is Sam Dyson. Team officials are thrilled with the move they pulled, acquiring Dyson essentially for free after he was designated by the Rangers. Dyson is now their closer. Maybe the Giants feel Sandoval can be similar found money. 

Perhaps the reason is the sellout streak. The Giants, for the first time in seven years, are looking at nights where the park isn’t filled. Sandoval burned bridges, but he still has some fans in the Bay Area and there have to be a few dozen boxes of panda hats in a closet at AT&T Park, right? 

Perhaps there’s an old-fashioned baseball reason, although that’s a bit harder to find. Sandoval posted a negative WAR in all three seasons in Boston and he played just 161 total games, posting a .237 average and a .646 OPS. But maybe Giants scouts see something there that they can fix, giving them a switch-hitter off the bench and potentially another option at third. 

The Giants — should the move become official — will give their rationale. At some point, someone may have to explain this move to the clubhouse, too. After leaving, Sandoval said he only missed Bochy and Hunter Pence.

“Do I remember that story?” one player said this week, “Of course I do."

Some players expressed a desire to give time to Ryder Jones and Jae-gyun Hwang, and to wait for Christian Arroyo to get healthy. Instead, the Panda is reportedly returning. Why? Maybe the question asked in the front office one was a different one: “Given the way this season has gone, why not?”

Giants to hire former Red Sox exec Brian Bannister as director of pitching

Giants to hire former Red Sox exec Brian Bannister as director of pitching

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have quietly spent most of the past month putting a staff together, one they expect to announce in the coming days. One new addition won't be working in a traditional dugout role, but still is expected to make a huge impact on the next generation of Giants pitchers. 

Brian Bannister, a former big leaguer who spent the previous five seasons with the Red Sox, will join the Giants as director of pitching, NBC Sports Bay Area has learned.

While it's unclear what Bannister's exact duties will be, his background is in development and the fact that he's joining the Giants but not as their pitching coach would seem to indicate he'll mostly be working with younger pitchers. 

Bannister has been a rising star in baseball circles since joining the Red Sox in 2015. He became their assistant pitching coach a year later and a few months after that added the title of vice president of pitching development. According to NBC Sports Boston, Bannister had an unusual contract that allowed the Red Sox to deny interview requests from other organizations that wanted to make Bannister a pitching coach, something they did repeatedly. In that story, Bannister explained his role and what he liked about it. 

“I think I’m kind of in that sweet spot right now where I know what our needs are, and I have the opportunity to work with staff at all levels of the organization to try to produce pitchers at a faster rate to keep that major league product winning on the field,” Bannister said. “I’ll be scouting one day, I’ll be in player development the next day. I’ll be in the front office working in analytics on Day 3. And the diversity of the role and the exposure to every aspect of the organization is what’s so appealing.

"Because you really start to see on an interdepartmental basis, how each person positively impacts the Boston Red Sox. And then figuring out ways to fill in the gaps. How to get the players from amateur scouting, through player development as efficiently as possible, and prepare them with exactly what they need for the major league staff. That part’s fascinating. I definitely enjoy the exposure to everything and trying to add value to everything. And that’s probably where my role is unique.”

The Giants have been looking to put together a unique staff, one that can focus on development of younger players in Kapler's first year. In that respect, Bannister fits perfectly, but he also has the playing experience that carries so much weight with players who prefer traditional methods. 

Bannister finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2007 after putting up a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts for the Royals. That was the highlight of his professional career, as he finished with a 5.08 ERA in five big league seasons.

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A USC grad, Bannister is coming home in multiple ways. He lives in the Bay Area and was born in Scottsdale, where he later starred at Chaparral High, which is about a 20-minute drive from Scottsdale Stadium. When Fox Sports first reported that Bannister would be headed to San Francisco, he thanked his previous organization. 

The Giants are expected to announce some staffing decisions over the coming week. The only known member of Kapler's staff thus far is previous third base coach Ron Wotus.

MLB rumors: Free agent Madison Bumgarner prefers to stay with Giants

MLB rumors: Free agent Madison Bumgarner prefers to stay with Giants

Madison Bumgarner stepped to the plate against longtime Dodgers rival and friend Clayton Kershaw at Oracle Park on Sept. 29, 2019. The pitcher who rakes pinch-hit for shortstop Brandon Crawford in the seventh inning of Game 162, and lined out on a 3-2 fastball to third baseman Jedd Gyorko.

The day belonged to manager Bruce Bochy in his last game as the team's skipper. It very well might have been goodbye for a longtime ace and franchise hero, too. 

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Wednesday that Bumgarner, who is a free agent for the first time this offseason, prefers to continue his career with the Giants but the team has "shown no inclination to keep him." 

After free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler reportedly agreed to a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies on Wednesday, it became clear Bumgarner very well could sign a nine-figure contract this offseason. That doesn't seem to fit into the rebuilding Giants' plans. 

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said late last month that San Francisco has "financial flexibility" but that doesn't mean he and general manager Scott Harris are going to throw huge contracts at veteran players. In fact, Zaidi seems focused on the opposite of that this offseason. 

"We need to be careful given our recent history about creating too many long-term commitments that can get us back in the jam that we very recently put ourselves in," Zaidi told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on the "TK Show."

Nightengale also reported Wednesday that the Giants were interested in free-agent pitcher Cole Hamels before he signed with the Braves. Though San Francisco wants to get younger, Hamels' one-year, $18 million contract is much more in line with their plan. 

Bumgarner likely is looking for a four- or five-year contract on the open market. With veterans Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija still on the team's books, and young arms next in line, the Giants don't seem too inclined to sign a pitcher to a hefty, long-term contract. 

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MadBum debuted with the Giants in September 2009, and has spent his entire career in San Francisco. He is a four-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger and three-time World Series champion. His real impact, however, came in the playoffs. 

The lefty is regarded by many as the greatest postseason pitcher of all time. He is 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 16 playoff appearances, and is a perfect 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA in five World Series games.

Relish the memories, Giants fans. Bumgarner's days of walking to the mound in San Francisco with the Marshall Tucker Band's "Fire on the Mountain" playing in the background, might be over.