It's looking more and more like the Pablo Sandoval race is going to come down to the Red Sox and the only team he's known, the Giants. According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, both the Giants and Red Sox have discussed deals between $80 million and $90 million for Sandoval, over a length of five years. Crasnick added that things could "come together quickly" for Sandoval this offseason, and that the Red Sox are a "serious player."
Sandoval seemingly isn't just talking to Boston in order to drive up the price for the Giants. In fact, a five-year deal for $90 million is surprisingly reasonable, whether it comes from the Giants or the Sox. It's still more money than what Chase Headley is likely to pull in as a free agent, but he appears to be entrenched in negotiations with the Yankees, so the Sox are in the right to focus their attention on Sandoval until given a reason not to do so. And yes, Sandoval might not be preferable to what remains of Adrian Beltre's deal with the Rangers, but Sandoval will only cost money and Boston's second-round pick in the 2015 draft, while Beltre would require established prospects, emphasis on the plural there.
Third base is a wasteland across the game right now. There are top players at the position, of course, but depth at the hot corner is almost nonexistent, and it's been a problem for the Red Sox since 2012, when Will Middlebrooks first appeared to save the day as a rookie but then was lost for the rest of the season to injury. He's never recaptured that form, and his replacements have not produced either. It's one of the only spots on the diamond where Boston can truly upgrade, and given Sandoval is a quality defensive player who will only be 28 in 2015, and has managed a 116 OPS+ over the last three years, he qualifies as that upgrade. If you need context, know that Red Sox third basemen produced an OPS+ of 63 last year, as measured against the average third baseman. Spoiler: that is awful.
If this ends up being a deal for $90 million, that's an average annual value of $18 million. That's high, sure, but not so high that it would preclude the Red Sox from doing anything else splashy this offseason. The lineup would now include not only the promising youth of Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Rusney Castillo, but also established veteran presences such as Sandoval, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Napoli. That's a lineup that can afford to find out what Allen Craig or Shane Victorino still have in the tank, and can weather some struggles at the plate from Christian Vazquez.
Sandoval could always return to San Francisco, as he's already won three World Series there and they can afford him. If he's looking for something new, though, and the Sox offer him just a bit more cash, maybe he comes east to a new home. He's already flown out to Boston to talk with the team, and did so weeks before the winter meetings, so maybe there's something here after all.