In case you missed the news, Pablo Sandoval is, somewhat surprisingly, returning to the San Francisco Giants. And he’s, quite wonderfully, well ahead of schedule rehabbing from September Tommy John surgery.
And while many new baseball rules are bad (coughcough the DH is supposedly coming to the National League in 2021 coughcough), we can perhaps thank a new rule for the fact that we get to root for Sandoval for another season.
At The Athletic, Andrew Baggarly writes that the expansion to 26 roster spots this season is what made the Sandoval signing possible:
Rosters are expanding from 25 to 26 players, but clubs will be capped at 13 pitchers. Because the Giants operated with a 13-man staff for most of 2019, they view the extra roster spot as a position player. The roster expansion might have been the opening that Sandoval needed to return — provided he is able to see through a rehab process that by all accounts has gone ahead of schedule this winter.
And if his arm strength comes all the way back? Heck, there’s no reason he couldn’t become an occasional 14th pitcher on the staff.
But the Giants considered Sandoval a fit because of what he did for them at the plate and on the field last season: a switch-hitter who reestablished himself as a right-handed presence, delivered plenty of clutch hits off the bench and provided a platoon matchup while backing up for a left-handed-hitting first baseman (Brandon Belt) and a right-handed-hitting third baseman (Evan Longoria).
“That’s actually still a really good fit for our roster,” Zaidi said.
The whole article (paywall) is worth reading, and features a funny story about Sandoval meeting with Gabe Kapler.
Sandoval is back, and you can thank expanded rosters for that. And, you know, him being pretty darn good last year.