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Sandoval top priority for Giants brass

AT&T PARK — Many questions were answered during Thursday’s offseason press conference with Giants brass. Others were not.

With three days of free agency gone by, the eight- to nine-figure elephant in the room was Pablo Sandoval‘s contract.

GIANTS MEMORIES: San Francisco’s journey from Spring Training to World Series.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean made it clear keeping the Panda in San Francisco was the organization’s No. 1 priority:

“We’ve engaged, but I’ll leave it at that.”

Sandoval is the only Giants free agent that front office has spoken to. Pitchers Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong are also free agents this winter, but Sabean said the landscape is not clear until they figure out a solution for Sandoval:

“We’ve told both Peavy and Vogelsong, ‘We need some time to sort things out.’ That goes back to Pablo. Pablo’s the only one we’ve engaged as far as an offer and moving forward in that fashion.”

The offer was not specified.

Sandoval, 28, has spent his entire career with the Giants.

He’s a three-time World Series champion, and earned the MVP in 2012’s championship. He’s one of four players to have hit three home runs in a World Series game. He also set the record for most hits in a postseason this year with 26.

More importantly, Sandoval is a local legend. There’s no doubt the Giants front office want to bring him back, and also that there will be other suitors.

The AL East would be a good landing spot for Sandoval. Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park were built for hitters like him, and both teams need a third baseman. The Yankees are more interested in bringing back Chase Headley, but don’t put it past them to reach out.

Whether Sandoval wants to remain a hero in the Bay Area or jump ship for more money is yet to be seen, but the East Coast media market is much more brutal. Sandoval doesn’t speak to media as much as other players, and at times even shuns them away.

Sabean and the Giants will have to look to free agency to fill the Panda-sized void at third base if Sandoval departs:

“We don’t have a solution in-house so it would have to come from the outside.”

With Peavy and Vogelsong’s futures uncertain, the roles of Yusmeiro Petit and Tim Lincecum become more important.

Manager Bruce Bochy has an idea of what he wants from each:

“We’re in, I think, a place where we’re trying to place those guys where we think they should be. Petit has value as a long guy. Timmy, I see him going back in the rotation.”

Another question mark is at backup catcher. The job was occupied by Hector Sanchez. After concussion symptoms and falling out shape, Bochy thinks there’s a competition heating up between Sanchez and Andrew Susac:

“I think you have to look at the job Susac did. Going into Spring Training, to be honest, he’s the front runner. It’s his job.”

Angel Pagan is getting himself back in shape after missing the postseason with a back injury. Bochy is optimistic of him being ready by spring:

“He feels great. He says he almost feels like he could play now. He expects to be ready for Spring Training and said his surgery was the best thing that could have happened to him.”

Pagan is recovering from back surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Another player recovering from injury is second baseman Marco Scutaro. Scutaro returned from a lower back injury in mid-July and promptly landed right back on the disabled list.

Bochy is not sure of Scutaro’s status and where he’ll fit in 2015:

“We tried all year to get him into playing shape and we did for a very short time. The best scenario is that he has a good winter and finds a way whether, I can’t say through surgery, but some kind of program that he gets on to allow himself to come back and help us out in some way or form whether it’s at second helping out Joe [Panik] there or as a utility player.”

Rookie second baseman Joe Panik took over second base in mid-June and finished the season with a .305 batting average.

Homegrown talent such as Panik has been key to the Giants’ success this decade. Giants CEO Larry Baer says it’s vital to a franchise:

“You’re not going to see too many championship teams built exclusively through free agents or trades… It was very gratifying, I have to say, sitting in the stands during the playoffs and looking at the infield. You just go catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base and credit to [Sabean and Bochy] and to John Barr, Dick Tidrow and all the folks that did the drafting.”

Sandoval, Peavy, Vogelsong, Sergio Romo and Michael Morse are the notable unrestricted free agents this offseason. Dec. 2 is the last day for teams to offer 2015 contracts to unsigned players.

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