Last week, a report surfaced that the Panda had lost a whopping 42 pounds so far thisoffseason.Sandoval denied the specifics and insisted that people will find out exactly how much weight he's lost once Spring Training rolls around. But this is far from the first time that Sandoval's weight loss regimen has been a major off-season storyline.
2009: Even before his first full MLB season, reports indicated that Sandoval's weight may be an issue and that, at the time, he weighed 246 pounds.
2010: The next year he lost his starting job to Juan Uribe, who was crucial in the Giants 2010 World Series run. During that 2010 season, Sandoval confirmed that he weighed 278 pounds.
2011: In the winter of 2011, Sandoval reportedly lost almost 40 pounds prior to Spring Training. He then went on to make his first All-Star game in 2011. He signed a three-year contract with the Giants after the season.
2012-13: Then his weight climbed back up and in the winter after the 2012 season, manager Bruce Bochy and Sandoval came to an agreement about his weight. Bochy told MLB.com last February, "He had to get to a certain area before I would play him. To his credit, he did."
For many fans, his default body composition is just one of many endearing qualities. He's a big, lovable bear. But it's easy to see why the coaching staff and front office are a little bit more concerned.
Fat players tend to fall off more quickly and miss more games due to injuries and the eye test confirms that his defensive range, bat speed, and confidence are all improved when he's slimmer.
That raises the question of his own personal motivation. If he does, in fact, want to be a great player, you'd think he could just cut out the doughnuts once and for all -- but clearly production and playing time have failed as incentives to this point.
So far there's only been one truly effective incentive for Sandoval: $$$. His most impressive off-season weight loss came in 2011...before a contract year. In 2011, Sandoval recorded the best defensive WAR of his career and his offensive production was second only to his first full season in the bigs.
That three-year deal he signed prior to the 2012 season is up after this season. Some reports have suggested that the Giants might want to continue their tradition of locking up key players before their contracts expire and sign Sandoval this offseason to a long-term deal, but doing so may eliminate his incentive for staying fit through the rigorous season.
Obviously it's a risk to wait until he hits the open market, but if he can only be motivated by playing in a true contract year situation, the Giants may have to roll the dice or risk another lost year for the Panda.