Giants, Sandoval not close to contract extension

All-Star third baseman eligible to become free agent at season's end

Giants, Sandoval not close to contract extension

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Given the constraints of the calendar, Pablo Sandoval's unlikely to sign a contract extension on the eve of the regular season, as right-hander Matt Cain and catcher Buster Posey did before him.

This doesn't mean that Sandoval, who's eligible for free agency after this season, is certain to head elsewhere. History has proven that a burst of productive phone calls and text messages can break an impasse.

Besides, no impasse exists between Sandoval and the Giants. They reportedly have not negotiated enough to create a divide in the first place.

"If they get it done, they get it done," Sandoval said. He declined comment when asked whether he'd allow contract talks to be held during the season.

But the Giants have some daunting facts to consider before they intensify talks with their two-time All-Star third baseman.

Upcoming payroll obligations are a significant factor. The Giants already have committed nearly $127 million to 12 players in 2015, led by eight-figure deals for Cain ($20.8 million), right-hander Tim Lincecum ($18 million), right fielder Hunter Pence ($18.5 million), Posey ($17.28 million), Tim Hudson ($12 million) and center fielder Angel Pagan ($10.25 million).

Moreover, the Giants almost surely will pay hefty raises to first baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford, who will be eligible for salary arbitration.

Payroll management might be relatively simple for the Giants if Sandoval were their lone priority. He isn't. They must address other spots, including:

• Closer. Sergio Romo is entering the final year of a two-year, $9 million deal. Given the lucrative market for closers last offseason, Romo could enter free agency and command a contract that pays him as much as $9 million annually. Allowing Romo to flee could be a realistic option for the Giants if they're approaching their payroll ceiling. Santiago Casilla, who's signed through 2015, could occupy the closer's role. Or the Giants could try Heath Hembree or Derek Law in that spot.

• Left field. Either Michael Morse thrives and the Giants will make him a wealthy man with a contract extension, or they'll decline to re-sign him and attempt to find a replacement via free agency or trade. San Francisco's farm system is bereft of Major League-ready outfield prospects. The Giants might have to part with one of their highly regarded Minor League pitchers to engineer a swap for a left fielder.

• Fifth starter. As is possible with Romo, the Giants might not elect to retain Ryan Vogelsong even if the right-hander excels, mainly to cut costs. Left-hander Edwin Escobar is close to being Major League-ready and might even receive a promotion to San Francisco this year if attrition strikes the starting rotation.

If the Giants don't sign Sandoval by March 31, when they open the season at Arizona, other potentially fruitful deal-making periods await them. There's the conclusion of the season, when Pence agreed to his five-year, $90 million pact, and the exclusive negotiating window following the World Series, when Lincecum remained a Giant by forging his two-year, $35 million contract last October.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.