Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell dropped his second bombshell on Red Sox fans this week when he announced his starting third baseman on Opening Day would not be Pablo Sandoval. Rick Rowand gives his take on new starting third baseman Travis Shaw and the “Damn the salaries, full speed ahead” attitude the Sox have taken.
Red Sox manager John Farrell, doing his best Admiral David Farragut impression, today announced that Travis Shaw will start the season at third base over $95 million man, Pablo Sandoval. This is the second time this week that Farrell has chosen skill over salary to put the best team on the field. Two days ago, Farrell named Brock Holt! the strong side of a platoon with Chris Young in left field in place of Rusney Castillo. Not every manager or GM has the chutzpah to do that, even though they all pay lip service to it.
Shaw has shown, at the very least, that he deserves the chance. Last season he was brought up to replace Mike Napoli at first base, and after taking over the position full-time in August, he hit .275/.332/.507 with 13 homeruns in just 232 plate appearances. This spring he hit .333/.337/.509 with two homers in 57 at-bats. Shaw has played third professionally in over 100 games, including over 50 last season between Pawtucket and Boston. While Sandoval came into spring training looking somewhat smaller than last year – and many observers proclaimed that he was much more agile than he was in 2015 – Shaw was simply judged to be the better player overall.
The question now is what to do with Sandoval. With the Castillo move, Dombrowski showed that he understands the concept of a sunk cost. If Shaw plays as well as the team expects him to, they will need to do something with the largest (no pun intended here) sunk cost on the team in Sandoval. He’s currently the backup to the backup first baseman and who knows what kind of effect he will have on the team sitting on the bench. With the strong personalities that the Sox have as team leaders in David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, I doubt Sandoval will be allowed to be a negative presence.
Now is when we see how large Dombrowski’s cojones really are. Ideally, he will find a trading partner willing to pay some portion of the Panda’s contract. If he is able to find a trading partner who is also willing to part with a player, making near the MLB minimum, who can play both first and third competently in case either Shaw or Rusney Castillo are injured for a significant amount of time, then he will be a miracle worker. Dombrowski announced a few days ago not to expect any trades for the foreseeable future. Looks like it’s time to not just eat a significant portion of the Sandoval contract but to eat those words too.