Boston Red Sox: The Case Against Signing Pablo Sandoval

Mark Vandeusen@@lucidsportsfanContributor IIINovember 11, 2014

Sandoval batted .429 in the World Series.
Sandoval batted .429 in the World Series.USA TODAY Sports

There is no denying that Pablo Sandoval is among the top free agents available this offseason.  The Boston Red Sox are expected to be one of many teams interested in pursuing the third baseman.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe first reported that the Red Sox will meet with Sandoval's agent during the MLB general managers' meetings this week in Scottsdale, Arizona.  While it is easy for Sox fans to get excited about the possibility of Sandoval coming to Boston, it's not without drawbacks.

In fact, there are a number of good reasons why the Red Sox should consider passing on the two-time All-Star.

Boston general manager Ben Cherington recently spoke about his club's interest in Sandoval, but he did not come off as overly enthused.  Via WEEI's Rob Bradford, Cherington said:

I'm sure we'll talk to his agent, but as you know we're going to talk to a lot of agents next week. I think because we stated an interest in adding a left-hand bat somewhere and because theoretically third base could be a place to do that, that is sort of an obvious link between us and Sandoval. Look, he's coming from a team that just won a World Series and is interested in keeping him, and we have to look at every alternative for that kind of guy who we're looking to add, the left-handed hitter somewhere, and there's different ways to do that.

Cherington's hesitation makes sense considering the enormous contract Sandoval is seeking:

Henry Schulman @hankschulman

Talked to Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vasquez. Sandoval wants at least 6 years. At 28, length of deal more important than last $. #SFGiants

CBS Sports' Jon Heyman also stated that Sandoval is looking for at least $100 million.  A six-year deal averaging between $17 million and $20 million annually could well be fair market value for the 28-year-old, but should the Red Sox be willing to pay it?

Sandoval's numbers are not as impressive as one might think.  Over his six full years in the big leagues, Sandoval's average stat line is as follows: 138 games, 17 home runs, 73 RBI, .292 batting average, .345 on-base percentage and a .464 slugging percentage.

But in the last three seasons, Sandoval hasn't hit more than 16 homers or driven in more than 79 runs.  His on-base and slugging percentages have also declined in each of the past three years, while his strikeout totals have risen.

Adam Kaufman of Boston.com writes:

The bottom-line with Sandoval is simple to understand: He's an above-average regular season performer and a force in the playoffs. Does that make him worth $20 mil a year? Normally, maybe, but not when he's so clearly already on the decline and his size makes him a severe risk of a lower-body injury. A deal of any significant length would be almost guaranteeing the reality of at least one bad year or two on the end; maybe earlier if a large payday makes him a little too fat and happy for those extra conditioning drills during the season.

And as far as Sandoval's size issues go, The Globe's Cafardo adds:

When Sandoval's weight is under control, he's a very good third baseman. When he's heavier, his quickness fades. The Red Sox don't want to sign him just as a future replacement for Ortiz at DH; they want him for third base. Sandoval's weight fluctuation is a big reason the [San Francisco] Giants haven't already committed to him.

Boston's need for a long-term third baseman is also not necessarily that great.  Garin Cecchini, Michael Chavis and Rafael Devers are all future candidates who rank among the Red Sox's top 10 prospects on SoxProspects.com.

And in the short term, even if Boston gives up on Will Middlebrooks, there are still multiple other third-base options on the roster.

Mookie Betts was converted from second base to outfield this past season.  Now that the Red Sox have an overabundance of outfielders (Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr.), could Betts give third base a try?

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Or how about Allen Craig?  He faces the same situation as Betts in the outfield and is stuck behind Mike Napoli on the first-base depth chart.  Craig started 236 games in the minors at third base and has some brief experience at the position in the majors.

However, the best choice may be Brock Holt.  It's easy to make a case that Holt was the club's MVP last year, as he filled in admirably at every position besides pitcher and catcher.  Third base is where he got the most action, though, starting 38 games at the hot corner.

Whether or not any of these names is the solution at third base, together they may represent a wiser decision than committing to Sandoval for six years.  Wouldn't the Red Sox likely be much better served by spending that $100 million on some top-of-the-line starting pitching?

Statistics via Baseball-Reference.com.