The Boston Red Sox signing Pablo Sandoval to 5-year, $95 million deal before the 2015 season has looked like a mistake from the start. Sandoval was coming off a heroic postseason with the San Francisco Giants in which he collected his 3rd World Series ring at the young age of 27.
The Red Sox brought in Sandoval, along with another top free agent Hanley Ramirez, with the hope of adding to the Panda’s ring collection. Instead, a combination of weight issues and lack of production have led to Sandoval losing his starting job, and more recently, being placed on the DL with a “shoulder” injury.
The contract looked like a mistake seemingly before the ink dried when Sandoval, who earned the “Panda” nickname presumably in part because of his round physique, showed up to 2015 spring training out of shape.
It did not appear to be a huge deal at first. Sandoval had never looked particularly athletic, but, it didn’t matter because he could hit. Before joining the Red Sox, Sandoval was a career .294/.346/.465 hitter, with an impressive post season resume.
While his weight was sometimes a point of emphasis for the media, Sandoval got away with it for one simple reason; he produced at the plate.
That changed when he joined the Red Sox though. In 2015, his first season in Boston, Sandoval posted career lows in BA, OBP%, and SLG%. It was by far the worst season of Sandoval’s career.
Somehow, even with all of the disappointment of 2015, Sandoval is off to an even worse start in 2016. He lost his starting 3rd base job in spring training to Travis Shaw. Through the first week and a half of the regular season Sandoval logged a mere 7 plate appearances, drawing a lone walk and striking out 4 times.
The only AB he had of note was when his swing caused him to break his belt, in a moment that perfectly mirrors his time with the Red Sox so far; embarrassing, and even a tad bit sad.
Sandoval and the Red Sox are at the point where they are better off without each other. To the Red Sox, Sandoval can be DFA’d, subsequently released, and deemed a mulligan. A situation that would cripple some team’s payroll flexibility, is something that the Red Sox can afford to do given their market.
It will rid them of a punchline for the headlines and of a wasted bench spot as Travis Shaw and sometimes Brock Holt have proved to be better options at the hot corner than Sandoval. Even the organization thinks they are better off without Sandoval on the 25-man roster, as they seemingly made up a shoulder injury in order to stash him on the DL.
It will most likely be impossible for the Red Sox to trade Sandoval as is, and it would be foolish for another team to claim him on waivers and take on his contract, but it shouldn’t matter to the Red Sox because they are simply better without him.
Sandoval also appears to be better off without the Red Sox. He could find himself a starting gig on a lesser team on a 1-year deal and do what it appears he wants to do, play his way into shape. Maybe he could strike lighting and regain form with a new club, something that won’t happen with an organization willing to hide him on the DL.
The Sandoval era in Boston needs to come to an end, so both player and team can move one and be better off.