With the postseason over and the winter meetings yet to arrive, we’re smack dab in the middle of one of the two deadest periods of the year for baseball news. The quiet is even worse this year with the uncertainty surrounding the CBA leaving teams a bit nervous to do business early. Then, out of nowhere in the tall grass, a wild Pablo Sandoval trade rumor appeared!
The Giants have discussed trading for Pablo Sandoval, at least internally. The factors the Red Sox have to consider: https://t.co/5ZmAQMUlwd— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) November 25, 2016
Before you pop any champagne and loose the graffiti, allow me to play the party pooper: this isn’t happening.
Alright, so, the chance exists. And it’s slightly higher given that the thought has at least crossed someone’s mind in San Francisco. But if there’s a chance, it’s minuscule. If the Giants had wanted Pablo Sandoval, the time was November of 2015, not November of 2016.
The reason lies in valuation, and how there’s no way the two teams will match up on this. For the Giants, any and all conversations on Sandoval start with giving the Red Sox nothing of value and expecting a big chunk of money in return. Sandoval is currently owed $54.8 million over the last three seasons of his contract, with either $17 million more in 2020, or a $5 million buyout. That means we’re basically looking at three years and $60 million.
How much the Giants actually expect the Sox to absorb of that is anyone’s guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number go as high as $40 million. While the Giants do have a good deal of money coming off their books this offseason, this is a team that’s gone from $90 million in payroll to $170 million over the past six years, only reaching that last figure in 2015 and 2016. It’s not clear how committed they are to sticking in this range, and even if they are, it’s hard to imagine that they’re willing to commit $30 million of that over the next three years to a player who missed 2016 and had as abysmal a 2015 as Pablo Sandoval did.
The Red Sox, of course, aren’t terribly excited to do so either. Unlike the Giants, though, they don’t really have any third base options they’re even comfortable with. Eduardo Nunez isn’t exciting, but he’s turned himself into a pretty solid player over the last couple seasons. Certainly you have to figure the Giants feel better about Nunez than the Sox do about Travis Shaw after his abysmal performance from June onward.
For the Giants, then, Sandoval is a strange sort of luxury. The reason they’d turn to him is for the chance to make a good situation perfect at a discount compared to, say, moving in on Justin Turner in free agency. For the Red Sox, he’s kind of the best they’ve got. It’s a race of hope between the idea that maybe Shaw was dealing with a sophomore slump (a hope dampered by the fact that little was expected of him before his brief onslaught in 2015) and that Sandoval will be fixed by some combination of his weight loss and surgery.
It might be another story if shedding a few million in payroll would be the difference between the Sox moving in on another third base option like Justin Turner, but it’s hard to imagine them re-investing in third right now given that the budget seems to be tight to begin with, Yoan Moncada is close to the majors, and the Red Sox are currently lining things up to make a splash in the massive 2018-2019 offseason.
If the Red Sox recoup some money from Sandoval—say, $6-to-$8 million per year—they can certainly use that elsewhere. It’s probably the price of a bullpen upgrade, and there’s something to be said for the idea that said reliever might come on a short term deal to let them put that money, too, towards the aforementioned ‘18-’19 free agent crop. But with the floor for third base this year so utterly bottomless, it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox giving away anyone who could end up being even league average.
Does Pablo Sandoval have a long-term place in Boston? Red Sox fans should probably hope not given what that would say about the development of Yoan Moncada and even Rafael Devers. But his value can’t get much lower than it is right now, and the usual problem with playing a player like that to get their value back up—the opportunity cost of not just putting a better player in their place—doesn’t really exist for the Red Sox. The Giants might or might not really be interested in trading for Sandoval, but the Red Sox will likely never have less interest in getting rid of him than they do now, even if he proves himself useful again in 2017.