SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants know they’ll have to give Pablo Sandoval a long-term contract, a pile of money and maybe even a cut of those Panda hat sales to win back his services on the free-agent market.
And still, that might not be enough.
As the Giants came off the World Series parade route at City Hall and readied themselves for another round of celebratory speeches, Sandoval and club CEO Larry Baer expressed mutual interest in a new contract.
That much was already known. The level of interest from the outside world is what they’ll find out, after Sandoval files for free agency on Monday. If the Boston Red Sox, or another club, offers a bank-busting contract, the Giants might have no choice but to let him go.
Sandoval said all the right things after coming off the parade route.
“I would love to be back here,” Sandoval said. “I love the fans, I love my teammates. I love the way they keep all these guys here. Why not? It’s going to be hard for me and for everyone. It’s my decision.”
Would Sandoval go to the highest bidder?
“I’m going to go from what my heart tells me to do,” Sandoval said. “I’ve got a lot of patience. It’s going to take time to make that decision and I want to do the right thing.”
“I want to be here for the rest of my career. I want to wear that jersey for the rest of my career.”
Sandoval wouldn’t go into any specifics on contract terms, or whether his expectations had changed from the spring when he rejected a three-year, $40 million offer and hoped to start negotiations at Hunter Pence’s five-year, $90 million deal. Those expectations certainly have gone up now.
Although he hit just .279/.324/.415, and for all the consternation regarding his conditioning, Sandoval made himself into a Gold Glove finalist at third base this season and he continued to come up big when it mattered most. He has a .344 batting average in the postseason and hit .366 this October with six doubles, five RBI and 12 runs scored in 17 games. His 26 hits this month established a major league record for one postseason, passing up the previous record of 25 held by Marquis Grissom and Darin Erstad.
In 12 career World Series games, Sandoval is batting .426 with four doubles, three home runs, eight RBIs and nine runs scored. He didn’t crush three home runs this time, like he did in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series on the way to MVP honors, but he reached safely in all four plate appearances Wednesday -- including three times when leading off an inning -- and scored two of the Giants’ three runs.
Baer, soaked with champagne in Kansas City, called Sandoval “a heck of a baseball player and he fits in this crazy quilt framework of ours really well.”
“The fans know we have a good track record along those lines,” Baer continued on Friday. “What we’re thinking about is growing the team and retaining who we can retain. Pablo is a huge part of this family. We’ve had conversations before this season and we’re always optimistic. We’ve heard nothing, seen nothing to dissuade us from pursuing him. I can’t say where it’ll end because we haven’t started.”
Baer reiterated the payroll would receive another incremental bump from the $145-$150 million range. But the club already has roughly $133 million committed for next season, once you factor in arbitration raises for players like Gregor Blanco, Brandon Belt and Yusmeiro Petit.
In addition to Sandoval, the Giants have four other free agents: Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo and Michael Morse.
“The payroll will increase,” Baer said. “We won’t do something crazy.”