The broken, disastrous marriage between Pablo Sandoval and the Boston Red Sox, an ill-fated union exceeded in its dysfunction only by a Kardashian coupling, could be nearing its end. Here’s how ugly it has gotten, major league sources told Yahoo Sports: Sandoval wants to stay in Boston only if he can play every day, and the Red Sox have no intention of playing him unless he loses weight and others in their current lineup struggle.
Facilitating an exit for Sandoval won’t be easy because of the more than $75 million remaining on his Red Sox contract and the team’s desire not to eat all of the money by cutting him. Sandoval’s trip to the 15-day disabled list Wednesday – a trip caused by a supposed left shoulder injury that took everyone, including the team, by surprise – buys the Red Sox enough time to explore all their options and determine whether any trade market exists before possibly jettisoning him.
The curiosity of the DL move grew as the day went on. Sandoval complained of mysterious left shoulder pain, and the Red Sox chose to immediately place him on the disabled list without having tried to diagnose the severity of the injury with an MRI, sources told Yahoo Sports. By the end of Wednesday, Sandoval still hadn’t visited an MRI machine, a standard procedure that precedes a DL trip in nearly every case but catastrophic injuries.
Perhaps both sides saw the DL trip as mutually beneficial. Sandoval, a two-time All-Star and World Series MVP who lost his starting job at third base during spring training, no longer had to watch manager John Farrell choose others ahead of him as pinch hitters or defensive replacements. The Red Sox, ostensibly using a 24-man roster, could free up a roster spot for someone Farrell actually might play.
Both parties, at least publicly, did their part to maintain the façade of détente. Farrell told reporters: “I still firmly believe that Panda is going to be a contributor to this team.” Said Sandoval: “I signed here for five years, so I’m here. ... I love being here.”
Rival teams know this much: Sandoval’s value is less than nil, and the Red Sox’s new regime, never shy to bury a player, spent all spring treating the 29-year-old third baseman as a sunk cost. From the start of camp, when Sandoval’s waistline turned into a headline and devolved into a punchline, his fit with the Red Sox was iffy. Boston shoehorned Travis Shaw in at third base, and when the experiment worked, Sandoval was out of a starting job.
His travails during the season’s first week didn’t help. Sandwiched in between two failed pinch-hitting appearances was one start in which Sandoval went 0 for 4 and destroyed his belt in the act of swinging. This was not the player on whom the Red Sox a year earlier had lavished a five-year, $95 million deal.
Where Sandoval could end up remains a mystery. The team with which he has been tied most often, San Diego, has cooled on Sandoval since pursuing him in free agency during the 2014-15 offseason, according to a source. Considering the widespread interest in Sandoval during his free agency – he was coming off a postseason in which he hit .366 and won his third championship with the San Francisco Giants, erasing concerns with some teams about an average regular season – his parched market remains slightly surprising.
Should Sandoval lose weight and regain some of the lateral mobility he showed with the Giants, he could again be a solid third baseman. And while his .245/.292/.366 line last season was among the game’s worst, Sandoval’s past success could intrigue teams seeking bargain-basement talent.
All of this could be moot, of course, if the prospect of paying Sandoval for nearly four years of zero production scares the Red Sox off the idea of trading or releasing him. Kicking around the possibility and actually ridding themselves of a burdensome contract are different things, and Sandoval’s time on the DL could give both sides time to clear their heads – or reinforce that with this marriage, divorce is but an inevitability.