There are no winners from Pablo Sandoval's time in Boston

Tim Brown
MLB columnist

This would be a sad story – well, not sad, we’ve a new standard for sad stories, but certainly a sobering story — were it not for it being selves inflicted on the parts of the Boston Red Sox and Pablo Sandoval.

Yeah, selves. Everybody owns a little part of today, of the Red Sox finally getting around to seeing what everyone else saw, that Sandoval probably wasn’t ever going to be a very good player in Boston, and maybe isn’t ever going to be a good player in his 30s, a fact that could be a real crimp in the rest of Sandoval’s baseball career. One’s 30s is kind of a big decade for a baseball player, if he cares at all about longevity or being a baseball player.

The Red Sox on Friday morning designated Sandoval for assignment. He’s owed about $50 million through 2019. Assuming we don’t adopt some new currency in the coming days, he’ll be released, because nobody’s trading for Pablo Sandoval, and Sandoval will have his money and the Red Sox will have their regrets. Everybody moves on.

They probably blame each other. Sandoval was injured a lot, I guess. He didn’t ever look ready to play in a Red Sox uniform. That said, he usually looked about the same as he had in a San Francisco Giants uniform. And, like a player who cruises or a player who strikes out a little too much or a guy who never did quite master the changeup, he’s not going to play frenetic or discover plate discipline or finally get the feel for another pitch because he changes cities. Some things just are. So Sandoval was a round third baseman who could cover the ground roughly defined by his noon shadow and hit right-handed pitching when he was healthy and happy, right up until he couldn’t hit right-handed pitching anymore either.

It’s the player the Red Sox signed for $95 million over five seasons. It’s the player they got for 575 at-bats. It’s the player they sent on his way Friday morning for nothing more than relief from the headache Sandoval had become and an open spot on their 40-man roster.

So what next for the Red Sox?

Well, they’ve been dealing with that since mid-May, when Sandoval became an occasional third baseman. The rest of the time he was healing, or resting, or watching baseball. Deven Marrero hit .229 in 118 at-bats as a third baseman. Josh Rutledge hit .263 — and slugged .263 — in his 57 at-bats there. Tzu-Wei Lin, who is 23 and built like a Whippet, has 15 at-bats at third base and seven hits. Add them all up, and the only club getting worse production from its third basemen over this half-season is — oh, hey — the Giants.

Maybe the Red Sox love, love, love Lin and he’ll bat .467 as their third baseman forever. And maybe there’s a better answer out there, someone along the lines of Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, David Freese, Yangervis Solarte, Todd Frazier or Martin Prado. The Kansas City Royals have perked up, which probably eliminates Moustakas. And Donaldson hails from the same division, so that may not work either. They could simply wait out the development of prospect Rafael Devers, who on Friday was promoted to Triple-A. Devers is but 20 and has played higher than A-ball for a half-season. Maybe Brock Holt is the guy, too.

For Sandoval?

The Red Sox on Friday morning designated Pablo Sandoval for assignment. He’s owed about $50 million through 2019.

He’ll have his chance to play again, be sure of that, because it’s impossible to forget the man with the great hands who in his first seven seasons batted .294 with a .346 on-base percentage, who one scout once lovingly called “Fat Ichiro,” who when directed and committed and focused surely can still hit, who in the right time and right place was good enough to win three championships.

Sadly for the Red Sox, and of course for Sandoval, he’s not been close to any of that for the better part of three seasons, and no amount of cajoling or scolding or let-him-be’s was going to change that. When he’s ready to change his body someone will be waiting, maybe even the Giants again, because all it’ll cost is a minor-league roster spot and a reminder that he’s no longer protected by salary or funny panda hats or sentimentality. He’ll hit or he won’t, and that’ll be the job, and it’ll be entirely up to him.

He won’t have to play to earn a living. That’s been done. He can live well forever if he’s smart. He’s also 30 years old and it’s no fun to rattle around the house all day at 30, no matter how nice the house is. Surely he’d like to keep playing the game, though that’s just a guess. That’ll be up to him. Entirely.

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