Joe Panik made an All-Star team, earned a Gold Glove and won the 2014 World Series during a six-year tenure with the San Francisco Giants.
After a significant decline at the plate, Panik lost his starting job at second base last week. On Tuesday, he lost his roster spot.
The Giants announced they have designated Panik for assignment, effectively cutting ties with a former first-round draft pick and homegrown talent who was a significant part of the team’s core.
Manager Bruce Bochy said his conversation with Panik on Monday night was one of the most difficult of his career and said both men “got a little emotional.”
“Joe was drafted by the Giants. He’s a Giant,” Bochy said. “He’s done so many good things for us. It’s a case where Joe is ready to look for a new opportunity and re-start his career. His role had changed here. He’ll be playing somewhere, and I’ll always be pulling for Joe.”
Here’s what Panik said in a statement released to reporters:
“I would like to thank the Giants, especially John Barr, Brian Sabean, and Bobby Evans for drafting me and giving me the opportunity to play for such a great organization. I would like to thank Boch, along with all the coaches I have had throughout my time here. Thank you to all my teammates. We have experienced some truly amazing moments together that I will never forget.
“To the fans, it was an amazing 6 seasons. Thank you for all the passion and support you have given us players. Nothing has driven me more than winning here in San Francisco. I am forever grateful for the Giants taking the chance on me and allowing me to live out my life long dream.
“It is time for me to start the next chapter in my career. But in my heart I will always be a Giant.”
Panik, 28, was hitting a career-low .235 with a .627 OPS in 103 games when the Giants elected to remove him from the roster in favor of rookie starter Conner Menez, who faced the Nationals on Tuesday.
The Giants also announced that left-hander Williams Jerez has been recalled from Triple-A Sacramento and reliever Sam Selman has been optioned to Triple-A.
Longtime teammate Pablo Sandoval declined comment before Tuesday night’s game, other than to say, “I feel bad, I feel sad.”
Madison Bumgarner had nothing to say to reporters, and Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt – other holdovers from the 2014 World Series championship team – were not available for comment.
Panik will be placed on waivers and can be picked up by an organization that places a claim on the left-handed hitting second baseman. The New York Mets, who recently lost second baseman Robinson Cano to injury, figure to be a possible landing spot for the Yonkers, New York, native.
The Giants informed Panik last Wednesday that his roster status was “day-to-day” following the acquisition of second baseman Scooter Gennett. The Cincinnati Reds traded Gennett to the Giants in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later moments before the July 31 trade deadline passed.
Farhan Zaidi, the team’s president of baseball operations, called Panik “a winning ballplayer,” and one of his personal favorites. But he said as the Giants moved into contention for a wild-card spot the team needed more production from the second base position and Panik became a victim of “roster math.”
“There’s a group of guys that have been here for a long time, staff that has been here for a long time,” Zaidi said. “There’s a lot of familiarity and a lot of comfort. It’s hard to change that mix, especially with a guy like Joe, whose done so much for this organization.”
Gennett, who has started every game at second since joining the team, called Panik “a great guy,” and said, “I don’t want to be the villain, coming in and taking someone’s place. But that’s part of the game.”
Panik was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft by the Giants and burst onto the scene as an immediate contributor during his rookie season in 2014. Panik hit .305 with a .343 on-base percentage as a rookie and finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Panik’s signature play as a Giant came in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series when he made an incredible diving stop and glove flip to start a 4-6-3 double play in the bottom of the third inning.
Panik is still one of the game’s elite contact hitters and has walked (36) nearly as many times as he has struck out (38) this season, but he hit a combined seven home runs over the last two seasons and just four in his final 200 games with the Giants.
With the acquisition of Gennett and the emergence of utility infielder Donovan Solano, Panik admitted last week that he knew his roster status was fluid. Aside from a decline in his offensive production, a lack of defensive versatility wound up costing Panik his roster spot.
Of the 146 qualified hitters in Major League Baseball this season, Panik’s .317 slugging percentage was the lowest mark by 14 points. Panik’s 69 OPS+ ranked as the second-worst qualifying mark among major league players, besting only Marlins infielder Starlin Castro.
The Giants are still on the hook for the remainder of the $3.8 million salary Panik is slated to earn this season, but that cost could be reduced if Panik is claimed on waivers. A claiming club will only be required to pay Panik the prorated major league minimum, which would save the Giants about $200,000.