San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval recently posted a “selfie” on Instagram showcasing his enormous weight loss this offseason. The Giants’ famed slugger has supposedly dropped a whopping 42 pounds, pulverizing the predisposed idea that he was destined to become a permanent designated hitter in the American League. The exact figure of how much weight he’s actually lost remains unconfirmed.
Sandoval is entering the final season of a three-year contract. He’s guaranteed $8.25 million in the upcoming season but isn’t assured a gigantic paycheck beyond that point. That could change if Sandoval demonstrates a candid ability to crush baseballs in his slimmer frame this spring. In fact, Giants’ general manager Brian Sabean has gone on record stating the team would be willing to restructure his contract if he shows up to camp in shape.
The Giants shouldn’t be hard-pressed to re-sign Sandoval, though. The Venezuelan native has undoubtedly taken big stride toward solidifying himself as a player capable of sustaining an athletic physique, but it remains to be seen if such a transformation will consistently result in better production at the plate.
Sandoval’s numbers have steadily declined over the past three seasons. His statistics are down in all three crucial categories: batting average (.278), on-base percentage (.341) and slugging percentage (.417).
The Giants’ front office brass is immensely excited about the potential that Sandoval will bring to camp, though. His slimmed down frame is ideally indicative of a player on the rise. The Giants endured similar frustrations with the “Kung Fu Panda” after the 2010 season.
Sandoval responded by showing up to spring training in shape. He preceded to record All-Star caliber numbers during the 2011 season, racking up 23 home runs and 70 RBI while posting a .909 OPS. Sandoval’s outstanding ’11 campaign should serve as an outline for what to expect in the upcoming season, especially considering that he’ll become a free agent for the first time in his career at the conclusion of the season.
It’s possible that Sabean and Co. have predetermined the net value of Sandoval in respect to what he means to the Giants’ organization. He’s a blatant fan favorite and an irreplaceable marketing commodity. Sandoval, along with two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, were the faces of the Giants’ resurgence in the post-Bonds era.
It would be ludicrous for the Giants to distance themselves from a player that essentially helped build a new era of baseball in San Francisco. Re-signing Sandoval before the 2014 season starts isn’t necessarily the best move the Giants could make, though. Forcing Sandoval to play out his current contract could pay enormous dividends. It would disable the happy-go-lucky slugger from regaining a sense of comfort and everlasting stability.
Sandoval still needs to prove that he’s worthy of a new contract. Shedding an incredible amount of weight is a solid first step in accomplishing that feat, but that’s all it is: the opening act. Sandoval still needs to perform at an All-Star level in order to earn a hefty multiyear contract.
His track record has shown that he’s capable of posting big-time numbers. Now he needs to actually do it. Sandoval will revitalize his career in 2014 because the future of his big league career rides on it. A subsequent injury-plagued season with weight concerns would land him on the pine in the AL where he would etch his name as the second-coming of Delmon Young — and that’s not a good thing.