Pablo Sandoval Was a $95M Disaster with Red Sox, but Was Boston the Problem?

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterJuly 14, 2017

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 09:  Pablo Sandoval  #48 of the Boston Red Sox reacts during a game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on June 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Pablo Sandoval was 28 years old when he signed that big deal with the Boston Red Sox.

I'm not sure what that is in panda years, but it turns out a panda ages quickly at Fenway Park. The question is whether the aging process can be reversed elsewhere.

"I haven't seen him play in a while, but I have to believe there is more in the tank," a National League scout who knows Sandoval said Friday, a few minutes after the Red Sox designated him for assignment. "It will be interesting to see if the Giants have any interest."

Yes, it will. It will be interesting to see if anyone has any interest in a player who was good enough to hit .366 in the 2014 postseason but bad enough that the Red Sox were willing to eat $48.3 million just to make him go away.

Speaking of eating...

When you ask people why it all went wrong, they remind you that Sandoval showed up to spring training badly out of shape in 2015, three months after he signed a five-year, $95 million contract. His look in spring training 2016 was even worse, prompting Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy to write "Get a load of that gut."

It's worth clicking on the link to see the photo at the top of Shaughnessy's column and, yes, "get a load of that gut."

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It's also worth clicking this Shaughnessy link, the one from October 2014 in which he begs the Red Sox to sign Sandoval and says, "I promise never to rip Sandoval for being out of shape or going on the disabled list."

Look, we all make promises we can't keep. We all make mistakes, too, and it's not like the Red Sox were the only team that wanted to give Sandoval a ton of money. Reports at the time of the deal suggested the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres both offered more than $90 million, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted Friday that the Padres had actually made the biggest offer.

Sandoval looked out of shape in spring training 2015, just after signing with the Red Sox.
Sandoval looked out of shape in spring training 2015, just after signing with the Red Sox.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

So maybe the biggest mistake was the one Sandoval made in believing Boston was the best place for him.

"Boston has a way to sidetrack a career," the NL scout said. "He is not the first and won't be the last."

True enough, but try to come up with a guy who failed as miserably as Sandoval did in Boston and then picked up the pieces somewhere else.

Certainly not Carl Crawford, who was much happier but only slightly better after he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Perhaps Yoenis Cespedes, whose half-season with the Red Sox was the low point of his career, or Edgar Renteria, who was an All-Star both the year before he came to the Red Sox and the year after he left.

Adrian Gonzalez didn't love Boston, but he was an All-Star and got MVP votes in his only full season with the Sox. David Price may be battling the New England media, but he's actually pitching well.

Sandoval did not play well. Not his first year, when his OPS+ dropped from 111 (11 percent better than average) to 75 (25 percent worse than average). Not his second year, when he needed shoulder surgery and barely played at all.

Not even this year, when by all accounts he came to spring training in much better shape. Sandoval still ended up on the disabled list twice, and his offensive and defensive numbers were even worse. When his minor league rehab assignment ended last weekend, there was no spot for him on the big league team.

"Bad defense, couldn't hit right-handed, poor health," an American League scout said of the switch-hitter, summing it up. "It just didn't work out. His warts were exposed outside of San Francisco."

Fair or not, he left people in Boston with the impression the big contract turned him complacent. As Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub tweeted:

You can forget about a buyout provision. The union would rightly fight that, arguing that players can't demand to renegotiate when they outperform contracts.

But if the Panda really did get "fat and happy" in Boston, is there any chance he could turn slim and motivated somewhere else?

It won't cost a team much to find out. The Red Sox have 10 days to try to trade Sandoval, but you can be sure they've already tried that. It also seems unlikely the Sox will outright him to the minors after those 10 days, though it's possible the team would spend some time working with him like it did with Allen Craig before releasing the former St. Louis Cardinal last month. He'll likely be released soon either way, at which point another team could sign him for the prorated major league minimum.

Will we ever see him again on an MLB diamond? Sandoval still has some time to get right physically and try to find out.

After all, he's just 30 years old.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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