Posted on July 14, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
After what can only be described as a disastrous two and a half years, the Boston Red Sox have parted ways with third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The Red Sox activated Sandoval from the 10-day DL on Friday, only to immediately designate him for assignment. Boston now has 10 days to trade or release him, although Sandoval’s release is inevitable. The Red Sox are on the hook for nearly $50 million left on Sandoval’s contract through the end of the 2019 season.
Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million contract with the Red Sox prior to the 2015 season. But he has never come close to living up to that deal. In 2015, Sandoval hit .245 with an OPS of .658 amidst complaints that he was out of shape and unwilling to work hard. Sandoval then missed nearly the entire 2016 season because of a shoulder injury that required surgery.
This season actually began with cautious optimism for Sandoval. He came to spring training in better shape than the previous two years and appeared ready to put the past two seasons behind him. However, Sandoval has continued to struggle amidst multiple stints on the DL. In 32 games with the Red Sox this year, Sandoval is hitting .212 with an OPS of .622, worse numbers than what he posted in 2015.
Even during minor league rehab games, Sandoval produced little offensively. Instead of giving him one more chance to prove himself after his latest rehab stint, the Red Sox decided that enough was enough with Sandoval. Even with nearly $50 million left on his contract, the Red Sox feel they are better off without Sandoval.
At age 31, it’s still likely that Sandoval will find a team to offer him a minor league contract and another chance to play his way back to the big leagues. However, on the heels of two and a half disastrous years in Boston, there’s little reason to believe that Sandoval will ever be the same player he was when he won three World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants.
Meanwhile, a lack of infield depth has forced the Red Sox to live with a platoon of Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin at third base. Both have been solid defensively, but neither provides the offensive punch that most contending teams want at third base. The Red Sox will almost certainly be exploring the trade market for a new third baseman.
The only internal option the Red Sox may consider is top prospect Rafael Devers. Devers is the no. 12 ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. However, he is yet to play above double-A, and the Red Sox may not want to rush the 20-year old to the big leagues and put him in the middle of a pennant race.
On the trade market, Todd Frazier may be the most likely option, as the White Sox are a willing seller. Frazier is hitting just .213 this year, but he has provided plenty of power (16 home runs) and could be productive with the Green Monster in left field. Eduardo Nunez of the Giants and Howie Kendrick of the Phillies could also be rental options who could fill Boston’s void at third base for the rest of the season.
Ultimately, the Red Sox cutting ties with Sandoval is not all that surprising. They showed last season with Rusney Castillo that they have no problem eating money when a player is underperforming. Of course, Boston lost faith in Sandoval a long time ago. Releasing him now changes little about their third base situation, which remains uncertain heading into the second half of the season.