Blue Jays to meet with Sandoval’s representative

Pablo Sandoval as a member of the San Francisco Giants. (Matt Slocum/AP)

The Toronto Blue Jays have interest in Pablo Sandoval and are expected to meet with the free agent third baseman’s representative next week, industry sources tell Sportsnet.

While Brett Lawrie currently projects as Toronto’s starting third baseman, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has said that Lawrie could play second base if a clear upgrade became available. Sandoval, a 28-year-old with a lifetime .294/.346/.465 batting line, enters the off-season as one of the top free agents available.

That said, the Blue Jays check in on a wide variety of players this time of year, including free agents and trade targets. At this stage in the off-season, it’s not yet clear where Toronto’s interest falls on the spectrum between due diligence and sincere interest.

Sandoval’s said to be seeking a six-year deal, which could be a sticking point since the Blue Jays’ club policy of limiting long-term contracts to five years remains ‘firmly in place.’ While the Blue Jays have financial flexibility beyond 2015, they must address multiple needs this off-season including their outfield and their bullpen. Melky Cabrera remains a target, but like Sandoval he’s one of the top free agent position players available and will seek a sizeable contract.

Regardless of the Blue Jays’ interest level, Sandoval will have plenty of suitors. The Giants don't have a clear replacement for Sandoval, who debuted with San Francisco in 2008 and contributed to World Series winners in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The Boston Red Sox are expected to meet with Sandoval next week, when the GM Meetings take place in Phoenix.

Sandoval hit .279/.324/.415 with 16 home runs in 157 games for the Giants in 2014, generating 3.0 wins above replacement. The switch-hitter has a free-swinging approach and a sturdy 5-foot-11, 245 Lb. build. He hits right-handed pitching particularly well (lifetime batting line of .304/.357/.493), which would give the Blue Jays a weapon from the left side to replace the recently-traded Adam Lind.

Sandoval rejected a qualifying offer from the Giants which means he’s linked to draft pick compensation like Cabrera and other top free agents.The Blue Jays would have to surrender their 2015 first-round pick to complete a deal with Sandoval, but they’d stand to gain a top pick if Cabrera declines the qualifying offer Monday and signs elsewhere.

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston has said payroll will rise from the estimated $137 million the team spent in 2014. The Blue Jays have an estimated $102.2 million in guaranteed money committed to next year's team. Add in projected salaries for arbitration eligibles and that figure soars above $120 million. That doesn’t leave tons of breathing room in 2015, but the club could certainly get creative given the money coming off of the books for the 2016 season.