By KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – On Monday, the Braves brought in a familiar name, signing veteran Pablo Sandoval to a minor league deal. Sandoval, a three-time World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants was in his second go-round with the Giants, after a three year stint with the Boston Red Sox. The 34 year old switch hitter appeared in 30 games for the Giants this season, hitting just .220 with one double and one home run. A two-time All-Star, Sandoval was designated for assignment by San Francisco last week in order to make room on the roster for Justin Smoak.
While most fans were probably confused at the signing, it’s a classic example of a zero risk, high reward type move. Keep in mind, teams sign and release players from their minor league systems all the time. It’s just when they’re bigger household names that they make the headlines. The example I used on-air this morning was what you saw a couple years ago when Tim Tebow was in the news, about to sign with a Major League club. The Braves had been in the mix, so I sat down with a baseball executive to find out more about these types of moves. What they told me was simple: Teams are constantly signing players as depth pieces at all levels of the system. They’re also constantly releasing players, and most on both sides never grab any attention. It’s situations like this one that grab the attention of fans as they’re folks you’re familiar with from over the years.
As for what to expect from Sandoval, I have no idea. I do know he’s a lifetime .344 hitter with 13 doubles, six homers and 20 RBI in 39 career playoff games. I know he’s got a World Series MVP to his name from 2014. And he’s got three rings to show for his tenure in the city by the bay. While Matt Adams didn’t pan out, and as Nick Markakis has struggled down the stretch, it can’t hurt whatsoever to add a guy like Sandoval to the mix to see what he’s got. You’re paying him next to nothing and it could end up being a sneaky good move for the club if he shows he’s got something left in the tank. Remember, the NL has the designated hitter, so there’s a chance he could serve a role in October depending on how the next handful of days go for him.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.