Once upon a time, Pablo Sandoval was a quality major league baseball player. That seems like a very long time ago – and happened in a city far, far away. Since arriving in Boston, the Panda has put himself in consideration for the worst free agent signing in baseball history. On the disabled list for the second time in 2017, hitting a paltry .212 at the plate, and bad enough on defense that the team has been forced to regularly utilize a late-inning defensive replacement, Pablo Sandoval might have played his last game for the Boston Red Sox. However, he will continue receiving paychecks until at least 2019.
What a disaster.
This latest stint on the DL is either a bout with the flu, an ear infection, or a flimsy excuse to get him off the major league roster. Since returning from his first DL stay (for a sprained right knee), Sandoval has hit .211 in 38 at-bats and made one error, with plenty of poor plays sprinkled in due to glacial range and a scattershot arm. A former switch hitter, Sandoval barely hits right-handed anymore because the results have been so atrocious – in 21 plate appearances, he’s scratched out a .150/.190/.150 line.
During his weekly interview with WEEI, Red Sox skipper John Farrell struggled to explain Sandoval’s continued existence with the team. On Tuesday night, Farrell sent out a pinch hitter (Chris Young) with the bases loaded in the eighth inning for Sandoval against a lefty and then finished the game with catcher Christian Vazquez making his first major league appearance at third base in the ninth. That is a very unsubtle point being made by the manager to general manager Dave Dombrowski: This guy is useless and can’t help us win ballgames – give me literally anyone else.
Sandoval’s latest trip to the disabled list will give him ten days off, and he’ll presumably then undertake a “rehab” assignment in Pawtucket. And it should surprise no one if he never returns. If Sandoval cannot hit and field markedly better when he recovers from whatever ails him, the Red Sox will have no choice but to release him. He could accept an assignment to AAA in order to prove himself, but this is highly unlikely. The most likely scenario is that he takes the money and runs. So to speak.
Presuming Sandoval refuses the assignment and elects free agency, this would remove Sandoval from the 40-man roster. However, it would not remove his salary for 2018 and 2019, nor his $5M buyout for 2020, from major league luxury tax considerations. Yes, ownership will have to keep cutting those checks, but they’ve done that before to players like Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo. If released, Sandoval’s major league career – unless he is inexplicably claimed off waivers – would be effectively over. Eating $42.2M is the last resort of deep-pocketed ownership, and the Red Sox can afford a few of these mistakes. Get it done, Dave.
I don’t know is a vastly better player than Pablo Sandoval in 2017. Deven Marrero is more than capable defensively, though his bat makes SoSH Baseball’s Brandon Magee long for the days of Cesar Crespo. Josh Rutledge isn’t terrible. Maybe Brock Holt will recover his balance and aura. Rafael Devers is playing well at AA and could be an answer soon. Dombrowski could swing a trade. Maybe Wade Boggs is available? Heck, I might be ok with digging up Johnny Pesky and putting him in the lineup if it means I never have to see Pablo Sandoval again.
Here is the lone highlight of the Sandoval Era:
Mercifully, it looks like we’ve seen the last of Sandoval. Sometime in the next month he can be quietly DFA’ed and released. Maybe he decides to play his way back in Pawtucket and Rusney needs a roommate? After Farrell made clear he’d rather play a catcher at third than the Panda making $18M a year, the team seems ready to move on. We can only hope.