By Andrew Tan
Special to S.F. Examiner
As the Giants gathered in left field for a team picture with their retooled roster, one player, a San Francisco mainstay, was ostensibly absent.
The missing member was none other than Joe Panik – the starting second baseman for the 2014 World Championship squad – who the Giants designated for assignment on Tuesday.
The move comes just six days after the Giants traded for another middle infielder, Scooter Gennett, from the Cincinnati Reds after a rough year for Panik at the plate.
In 103 games, Panik posted career lows in batting average (.235), on-base percentage (.310), slugging (.317) and OPS (.627).
The six-year veteran has spent his entire career with San Francisco, making his major league debut in 2014 after being selected with the 29th overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft.
“It’s one of the more difficult conversations I’ve had in my career,” manager Bruce Bochy said of his final meeting with Panik. “I’ll always be pulling for Joe. I can’t thank him enough for all that he did here.”
When asked if any particular memory of Panik stood out to him, Bochy reminisced on the second baseman’s clutch double play in game 7 of the 2014 World Series, which Bochy said, “probably won the game for us.”
A key piece on that championship team and a 2015 All-Star, Panik was San Francisco’s sixth-longest tenured player and one of six current Giants players to feature on a championship-winning team – the others being Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Pablo Sandoval.
“He was nothing but class,” Bochy said. “We both got a little emotional but that’s going to happen. I think he’s ready to see what’s on the other side.”
Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi added that in his short time with the organization since November 2018, he has grown quite fond of Panik.
“He’s been one of my favorite players over the last few years,” Zaidi said. “I was fortunate to be around Chase Utley, for a few years in LA, and in that facet, just being a winning baseball player, I put Joe in the same category.”
Panik declined an opportunity to go to Triple-A Sacramento and could now be claimed off waivers by another team within the next seven days. Even if Panik had accepted the assignment, he was set to become a free agent after the 2019 season and was a candidate to be non-tendered in the offseason.
With Gennett now in the fold and Donovan Solano available off the bench, the Giants’ release of Panik signaled that they are ready to move forward with a younger core with high upside.
Though Gennett has turned in the worst offensive year of his seven-year career, San Francisco seems to be counting on the 2018 All-Star to rediscover his power stroke – 50 home runs and 189 RBIs between 2017 and 2018.
“We have been in a situation where we’ve been looking to get a little more production out of that second base spot,” Zaidi said. “We did figure that at some point we’d have to make this move.”
In regards to the timing of the move, Zaidi said that the team needed roster flexibility to recall left-handed pitcher Conner Menez, who starts Tuesday against the Nationals. The Giants also recalled left-hander Williams Jerez and optioned Sam Selman to Triple-A Sacramento.