Why Giants had to briefly release Pablo Sandoval, three other players

Why Giants had to briefly release Pablo Sandoval, three other players

When the Giants released their roster Monday, everything looked pretty normal. But technically, a day earlier, they had released a pretty big name in franchise history and three other veterans.

As a procedural move, the Giants released Pablo Sandoval, Billy Hamilton, Yolmer Sanchez and Trevor Cahill before re-signing all four and putting them on the roster for Summer Camp. The Giants had to rework the contracts of all four, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi shot down speculation that opt-outs were removed from the contracts.

Generally, veterans who come to camp as non-roster invitees have an opt-out in late March that lets them seek a job elsewhere if they're concerned about their roster spot. Contracts also sometimes include opt-outs spread over the start of the season for guys who end up in Triple-A, but none of that is possible this year. 

"All four of these guys still have the ability to opt out before Opening Day if they're not added," Zaidi said. "Given their service time that (removing the opt-out) wasn't going to be an ask that we made of them. We wouldn't want them going to our alternative site (in Sacramento) without their consent anyway. We didn't ask that. We did revise terms some.

"I don't want to get into specifics, but part of the motivation was reevaluating performance bonus structures given the value of cost certainty in the current environment. That was a primary driver of those discussions. The players were all agreeable to those revisions."

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The 60-game season came with unforeseen issues for front offices, and one of them is dealing with performance bonuses. Sandoval, for instance, returned in January on a deal that has just a $2 million base salary but includes $750,000 in potential bonuses. Those bonuses though were negotiated on the assumption he could try to reach them over 162 games.

Like the other three, Sandoval was on a minor league deal this spring, which normally would mean the Giants would have to pay a $100,000 bonus to keep him in the organization if he wasn't on the initial roster. That part of the CBA was still being negotiated over the weekend, but it won't matter in this case anyway. Zaidi made it clear that all four veterans have an inside track to a roster spot. 

[RELATED: Giants don't expect any players to skip camp]

"Importantly, I think all four guys feel good about their opportunities to make the active roster," he said. "They all have great shots to make the active roster and they're happy in the organization, so we were able to get that resolved."

Sandoval is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and should serve as a valuable bench bat for Gabe Kapler while also potentially platooning at third with Evan Longoria. Hamilton will be particularly valuable in a short, intense season that could be heavy on pinch-runners, especially in extra innings. Sanchez is a strong defender and switch-hitter who is a good fit alongside Mauricio Dubon, Wilmer Flores and Donovan Solano in the infield mix, and Cahill, a starter and reliever in the past, is a perfect fit for a pitching staff that won't have a set rotation. 

Matt Duffy gives 'never say never' answer to future Giants reunion

Matt Duffy gives 'never say never' answer to future Giants reunion

The Giants have brought back many players for a second rodeo in the past.

Hunter Pence was their latest example this past offseason when they signed the two-time World Series champion to a one-year contract, and he certainly won't be the last player to come back for Round 2 in San Francisco. Perhaps there could be another reunion for a fan-favorite in the future. 

"Never say never," Matt Duffy said Wednesday to KNBR's Mark Willard. 

Duffy, 29, signed with the New York Yankees on June 28. He signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers, but they released him before announcing their 60-man roster for Summer Camp. New York quickly swooped in and signed the infielder. 

The Giants called to "check in" over the offseason as well. But there is no reunion in place. At least, not yet.

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"We did have some dialogue with the Giants this offseason, but it just didn't seem like the interest was there and as mutual as some other opportunities," Duffy said. "But yeah, like I said, never say never."

Duffy made his big league debut with the Giants in 2014, and instantly became a fan-favorite. He hit .267 over 34 games that year, then starred as a rookie the next season. Duffy finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting after he hit .295/.334/.428 with 28 doubles, 12 homers and 77 RBI in 149 games.

Unfortunately for Duffy, that has been his only full season in the big leagues. In 2016, Duffy was hampered by an Achilles injury and played in 70 games for the Giants. Then on Aug. 1, 2016 the Giants traded Duffy with prospects Lucius Fox and Michael Santos to the Tampa Bay Rays for left-handed pitcher Matt Moore.

[RELATED: Posey, Belt face inevitable risk amid coronavirus pandemic]

Duffy played 21 games for the Rays in 2016, but underwent season-ending Achilles surgery and missed the entire 2017 season. He hit .294 for the Rays in 2018, and only played in 46 games last year. 

Injuries have hampered Duffy throughout his career. However, if healthy, Giants fans certainly would welcome a reunion in the future.

Joey Bart, three other Giants are intriguing Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow

Joey Bart, three other Giants are intriguing Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow

The Giants will have some interesting roster decisions to make when Summer Camp wraps up in a few weeks.

Unlike a normal spring training when the team would break camp with a 25-man roster, manager Gabe Kapler will take an initial 30-man roster into the abbreviated 60-game 2020 MLB season.

Guys that might have missed the cut in March might make the expanded roster now.

For Giants broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, there are a few bubble players they are hoping make the team. Some you've heard of, some are lesser known.

"I want to see some more of Joey Bart," Krukow told NBC Sports Bay Area's Kelli Johnson last week. "He was quite intriguing when we got to see him in spring training. He look like he's in the comfort zone and he's ready to make a contribution."

Bart, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, is arguably the Giants' best prospect. During spring training in March, the 23-year-old catcher recorded seven hits in 16 at-bats and connected for two home runs.

While Bart is on the Giants' 60-man roster, he's expected to go train at the alternate site in Sacramento to begin the season. Right now, the team would rather have him get consistent work than sit behind Buster Posey at the big league level. Of course, everything could change if Posey decides to opt out of the season.

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Krukow also wants to see left-handed pitcher Tyler Anderson, fwho aced the Giants seven times over the last four season.

"When we saw him two years ago, he was one of the best left-handers in the league," Krukow said. "And then he fell flat last year, completely fell out of grace in the eyes of the Rockies. He wasn't hurt. He was mechanically screwed up, I think he had a few little minor problems. But I think he's going to be ready to go once they reconvene and I think that's an intriguing matchup, him in that ballpark."

During the Rule 5 draft in December, the Giants used one of their picks to claim right-handed pitcher Dany Jimenez from the Toronto Blue Jays.

"[Jimenez] threw the ball really well," Kuiper said. "He's got to make the team, otherwise you give him back. And it looks like with this roster expanded now, I mean, why wouldn't he make the team?"

In seven innings pitched over six relief appearances for the Giants this spring, the 26-year-old posted a 2.57 ERA.

Kuiper mentioned one other Giants prospect, though this pitcher didn't make the 60-man Summer Camp roster.

"The other guy, he hasn't had a lot of years in the minor leagues, the Sean Hjelle kid, the kid that's 7-foot-3, something like that," Kuiper said. "I mean, he's so intriguing that you'd almost like to have him on the roster just so you could see what people would react to when you walked through the lobby of a hotel. It would be awesome. 'Well, there's the baseball team,' 'No, that's not a baseball team. Gotta be a basketball team, right?' So I want this kid on the team, and maybe he's got a chance to make it."

[RELATED: Posey, Belt face inevitable risk]

Kuiper likely won't get to see Hjelle this season, but 6-foot-11 pitcher is expected to be a big part of the Giants' future.

Jimenez and Anderson likely will pitch for the Giants this season, and Bart could see time if an opportunity to get him consistent at-bats presents itself.