The Red Sox' first target this offseason could be third baseman Pablo Sandoval according to Peter Gammons' most recent column on Gammons Daily, spelling an end to the Will Middlebrooks era and the beginning of the Kung Fu Panda regime. Should Red Sox fans be excited?
Pablo Sandoval is a fine player, of that there's no question. The thing is, he's not a star. Once upon a time, he seemed destined for great things. In his first and third seasons with the Giants, Sandoval earned a reputation as one of the National League's most dangerous hitters, producing a wRC+ over 145 in both campaigns. This he did while playing third base--an increasingly offensively bankrupt position--and doing it fairly well. He earned MVP consideration in 2009, and an All-Star spot in 2011. That's how Hall of Fame careers start.
But that was three years ago, and from 2012-to-2014, Sandoval hasn't lived up to that early hype. This is not to say he's been bad. In fact, there's no possible way to view Sandoval's performance as anything but above average. He's hit reasonably well (particularly for a third baseman) in an unfriendly park while playing strong defense. He's an across-the-board above average player, and there's no way to argue against that.
If Sandoval were going to be paid like an above-average player, then the Red Sox should be trying to put themselves front-and-center in the race to sign him. But he's almost certainly not. Nick Cafardo floats the lofty price tag of $100 million. Buster Olney frames a three-to-four year offer from the Giants as being on the light side, while Peter Gammons has suggested that the reasonably well-funded Giants don't even have a chance to keep up. Say what you will about October free agent predictions; all the signs point to Pablo Sandoval being expensive.
And frankly, he's just not worth it. Not at all. Sandoval is not a transformational player. He'll fill a need for the Red Sox, at least for the moment, but for all that he's an above-average hitter with an above-average glove, he's far from elite. And then there's the physical issues to consider. Sandoval is young, a point in his favor, but the positives that come from that are at best neutralized by the fact that he's far from the most physically fit player in the game. You don't need the cautionary tail of Prince Fielder to see that Sandoval is plenty risky for being a free agent more than a year shy of 30. And if those issues diminish his defense, or even force him into a DH role, the bat is far from the quality needed to justify his likely contract there.
Simply put, the Red Sox would be a better team with Sandoval than without, but they wouldn't be better off.
It's a pitching-rich and hitting-light market, so Sandoval will likely find no shortage of teams interested in paying him what he isn't worth. The Red Sox would certainly do well to find someone to play third base so that they're not entering the season looking at a combination of Will Middlebrooks and Brock Holt at the hot corner. But that's certainly no reason to go spending huge money on a risky third baseman whose reputation is still inflated by performances three years in the past.