SAN FRANCISCO — The day could come this season when Pablo Sandoval walks into the Giants clubhouse and sets down his equipment bag.
Lord knows he has more baggage than his bats and workout clothes.
How would Sandoval be received by his former teammates? With open arms? With guarded greetings? With bygones or burned bridges?
This much is clear: It’s a reunion that will require more diplomacy in some corners than others.
Sandoval and the Giants have an understanding on a minor league contract, according to multiple reports. The club cannot make any official comment until the former Red Sox third baseman clears release waivers tday.
Hypothetically, though ...
Hunter Pence said he was excited to hear the Panda might be coming back, gushing over the spirit and talent that Sandoval brought to the roster before making a rather brusque exit as a free agent following the 2014 World Series season.
Others, including Buster Posey and Brandon Belt, were more measured in their comments.
“We’ll welcome anybody who can help us win games,” Posey said. “It’s as simple as that. That’s what it’s about. It doesn’t matter who it is. If there’s somebody who can contribute and help us win games then yeah, you should be here. That’s ultimately what it boils down to. It’s that simple.”
Said Belt: “I hope he comes and rakes and we win another World Series. That is not a lie.”
Does that mean Sandoval would be welcomed back to a clubhouse that he left with a harrumph, saying the only people he missed were Pence and manager Bruce Bochy?
“I’m sure, yes,” Belt said. “I just want to win. If he’s a key to that, let’s do it.”
Pence took issue with a report that the clubhouse would not be in favor of a reunion with Sandoval, even if his glowing comments about the Panda were not exactly echoed by others within the room.
“I think it’s exciting. He’s done so many amazing things here,” Pence said. “He’s always been one of those personalities that kind of fits in with the Giants and the Bay Area. I know there’s been all sorts of stuff — I haven’t listened or heard all of it — but I’ve always enjoyed Pablo. I’m very grateful for the times that we played together and the remarkable things he’s done in clutch situations. I enjoyed his playful creative spirit. Who knows? There’s been just a great bond between him and this city and what he’s done here for the most part.
“I think a lot of people have fond memories of him.”
It’s not as if Sandoval will be on the roster in a week or the Giants are carving out their everyday third base job for him. He’s reportedly willing to sign a minor league contract and prove himself at Triple-A Sacramento, with no promises or guarantees.
If nothing else, maybe providing a landing spot this season and a chance to play will be a gesture that helps to improve future relations between the Giants and Sandoval. We all know the importance this organization places on its relationship with its former stars. They want them to be a part of future reunions and celebrations, etc.
As dire as this season has been, the Giants have to be open minded to anything that could improve their talent inventory — they took Sam Dyson off the scrap heap from Texas, and he’s currently serving as their closer — and Sandoval amounts to a virtually no-risk signing.
The Red Sox are on the hook for the roughly $49.5 million still owed to Sandoval. The Giants wouldn’t even have to pay him a prorated portion of the major league minimum salary ($535,000) while he is in the minors.
Besides, the organization finds itself especially light on position players at Sacramento due to call-ups and injuries. It’s possible that the Giants wouldn’t have considered Sandoval if top prospect Christian Arroyo weren’t out for two months with a fractured hand.
If the Giants trade Eduardo Nunez as expected, they’ll have to figure out how to split time at third base. Do they want to see more of Jae-gyun Hwang, Conor Gillaspie or Ryder Jones? There isn’t a clear answer there.
Into that void, then: Sandoval.
When you are desperate for options, you let bygones be bygones.
“If you help the team win, that’s what this is about,” Posey said. “It doesn’t matter what’s been said in the past. If you can contribute and help the team win, whether it’s Pablo or anyone else, that’s what it’s about.”