Mailbag: Is Sandoval the real deal?

Mailbag: Is Sandoval the real deal?

Looks like Pablo Sandoval might be the real deal. If he can handle any of the positions he plays, I think they may have found a steal as a non-drafted free agent. I haven't seen a player that can hit like him since Will Clark. He so far has shown that he can handle Minor League and Major League pitching, and I believe he will be a yearly .300 hitter. What's your thought?
-- Chuck A., Ventura, Calif.

My thought is that Sandoval is an intriguing player, to say the very least. His ability to catch and play the infield corners makes him extremely handy. At bat, it seems like there's no pitch he can't hit. That said, his Major League career is all of 21 games old, entering the Arizona series. Let's see how he handles his first slump, and let's see how diligently he prepares himself for Spring Training. After Sandoval drove in five runs on Sunday, we learned that he became the first Giants rookie to achieve that feat since ... Damon Minor. So don't let Sandoval's fast start seduce you. As with others, he must withstand the test of time.

Remember when Albert Pujols first came up? The Cardinals had him playing a little bit of everything (first base, third base, left field) and he eventually settled in at first. Because of his bat, they had to find a place for him. I say all of this because Sandoval reminds me of Pujols' situation. We are going to have to find a place for him because he can flat-out hit. What do you think the Giants are planning to do with Pablo?
-- James J., Birmingham, Ala.

With Bengie Molina signed for 2009 and Buster Posey ascending rapidly, Sandoval's unlikely to wind up behind the plate. Since that obviously leaves first and third base, I'd imagine he'll land in the spot that's not taken by a big acquisition or a teammate (if Conor Gillaspie proves he's ready for third base or Travis Ishikawa or John Bowker takes command at first).

Sandoval can play. Posey is another Bob Horner or Barry Bonds, meaning he needs little or no time in the Minors. When you sign players that no other general manager wishes to touch during a rebuilding year, you get no knockout offers before the waiver deadline. Molina to the Yankees instead of Pudge Rodriguez was a no-brainer. Brian Sabean did not make it happen. Why on earth does Molina need to be with this team, as it's assembled? He is a warrior and deserved to be with a winner. Why do the Giants not hold Sabean to a higher standard? Do you dare put this question in your mailbag and mention the Dave Roberts contract or the Joe Nathan trade?
-- John B., St. James City, Fla.

I don't need to mention the Roberts contract or the Nathan trade -- you just did. Certainly, Sabean has made his share of regrettable deals. But look at what Detroit got in exchange for Rodriguez: right-handed reliever Kyle Farnsworth. This indicates that the Yankees didn't have much to offer for Molina, who the Giants need if they're going to sustain any sort of resurgence next season. It's a little early to throw Sandoval or Posey into an everyday Major League catching role.

What are the chances of Randy Winn still being a Giant next season? He is hitting brilliantly at the moment. But he also is on a relatively large salary ($8.25 million next year), and with Aaron Rowand, Roberts, Fred Lewis and Winn on the roster, there clearly is an odd man out. Roberts would be the ideal man to move, but he is injury-prone and expensive, as opposed to Winn, who is expensive but is currently doing wonders to help his trade value. The Rays may be willing to welcome him back to use his experience, professionalism and quality, and should be in a financial position to pay him. What are your thoughts?
-- Ian W., San Francisco

I'd guess that Winn is more likely to remain with the Giants than to depart. I agree that his trade value never will be higher, so I'm sure that the Giants will listen to offers for him. By the way, in citing the personnel logjam, you forgot Nate Schierholtz, who could be the biggest factor in prompting the Giants to move an outfielder. Winn can block deals to 10 clubs, so that might make him somewhat difficult to deal. Also, teams want power-hitting outfielders -- there's not as much demand for competent high-average hitters like Winn, believe it or not. And Lewis' foot problems could force the Giants to keep their outfield well-stocked to protect themselves.

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I know it is wrong to ever root for the Dodgers, but is it OK to secretly want them to beat Arizona so Brandon Webb won't get a bonus in the Cy Young Award voting?
-- Kawamoto C., San Jose, Calif.

I donned layers of orange-and-black clothing, squatted at the site where home plate used to be at Candlestick Park, arranged photographs of the Giants' Hall of Famers around orange-and-black candles, smeared on some of Will Clark's unused eye black, chanted Brian Johnson's name as if it were a mantra, played cassette tapes of Giants highlights from the Russ Hodges-Lon Simmons era and waited for a sign. The answer came: Yes.

Will Bowker get a chance to reclaim the first-base job in September? I, for one, was actually shocked the Giants would play yo-yo with him. I don't want to see him turn into another Damon Minor, Lance Niekro, or Todd Linden. On a power-starved team, you can't keep messing with the power prospects.
-- Christopher C., Benecia, Calif.

Given that Ishikawa, Scott McClain and Sandoval seem to be rotating at first base, Bowker's best shot appears to be 2009 Spring Training. I agree that potential power hitters should be nurtured, not neglected. But if the Giants decide that Ishikawa or Sandoval has more pop (at 36, McClain's long-term value appears limited), cracking the lineup will be difficult for Bowker.

As a theoretical exercise, what sort of return could we get if Tim Lincecum was available on the trade market, and do you think the Giants would ever consider this option?
-- David S., Sydney, Australia

At least three top prospects, or a proven non-arbitration-eligible hitter (good luck finding one of those) along with a decent pitcher or two. At least. As a theoretical exercise, I wonder how many orderlies from the closest mental hospital would be required to round up the Giants' front-office officials if they dealt Lincecum. That's a long-winded way of saying that I doubt the Giants will consider this option.

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.