The Red Sox have some pretty great contracts. Going basically year-to-year or thereabouts with David Ortiz has paid off magnificently. Dustin Pedroia's deal could very well outlive his productivity, but the cost is so comparatively low to other such extensions that it barely matters what happens at the end of it. David Price's $217 million is a bargain, because it exists in the same universe as Ian Kennedy's $70 million.
Then, there are some, let's say, less good contracts. ESPN has included three of Boston's many deals in their list of the worst 25 albatrosses in the game, and while that word is probably a little too emphatic for what these deals represent for the Red Sox, it's hard to ignore the whole aforementioned "less good" thing.
You can guess who they are before they're unveiled. Pablo Sandoval comes in as the sixth-worst in the game thanks to the $75 million he still has owed to him, while Hanley Ramirez comes in at 10th with his $66 million remaining. The one you might be more unsure of is Rusney Castillo, but given how comparatively little he'll count against the luxury tax for -- just over $10 million per year -- it's no surprise he's all the way down at number 21.
Now, this isn't a positive, not by any means. By the reckoning of Dan Szymborski and his projection system, ZiPS, Hanley and Panda are not shining beacons of hope for the remainder of their deals, which did not start out well, either. And you can see why the pair would think so, too: Sandoval flat-out looked bad on both sides of the ball in 2015, and while Hanley can hit while healthy and should be a better first baseman than left fielder, the "while healthy" part is always the rub with him.
On the other hand, though, simply being on this list doesn't mean the Sox, or these players, are doomed. Ramirez's shoulder was largely (but not entirely) to blame for 2016, so if he's feeling good in that regard, he should produce. If he's not a very good first baseman, the DH spot is opening up for the Sox a year from now when Ortiz retires, so as long as Ramirez hits like he's expected to, his being 10th on this list will soon be just a memory.
As for Sandoval, if he can just be average, the Sox won't exactly be getting a bargain, but his placement on this list would also shift significantly. If he's not average, though -- if he's once again terrible -- it's not going to have a long-term impact on Boston. Dave Dombrowski has no special attachment to a player he did not sign, and all he costs is money. If he's taking up a roster spot and the Sox have to pay him anyway, they'll find a way to move him if it comes to that. With Brock Holt and Travis Shaw around, the Sox don't need to waste time for years to see if Panda will rebound. Manager John Farrell has already all but said as much this spring.
And that leaves aside that two of Boston's top prospects could very well be third basemen as well. Rafael Devers currently plays there, and even if he has to move over to first base eventually, Yoan Moncada, the Sox top prospect, could find his home at the hot corner down the road if necessary. And there's a good chance Moncada is in the majors by some point in 2017.
Yes, Sandoval would still cost the Red Sox money, and not a small amount, either, but their payroll and roster are structured to absorb that blow if need be. It helps that they have inexpensive in-house options both now and in the future if necessary, because at that point, it'll just feel like they're paying those players Sandoval's money if he's cashing Boston's checks while unemployed, on the bench, or somewhere else entirely.
Panda conversation dehumanizes him, misses the point
There's definitely reasons for concern when it comes to Pablo Sandoval, but how his shirt fits probably isn't one of them.
Castillo has struggled with injuries in his time with the Sox, but he's still just 28 years old and will get his first real shot to take over a position this year. He's shown flashes of what the Sox hoped they were getting when they signed him to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal at the end of the 2014 season, and the good news is that even if he ends up being just okay at the plate, he should be a significant addition defensively in left. An above-average defensive player subbing in for one of the worst defensive seasons of all time in left is no small thing.
Maybe he never pans out the way Boston hopes: like with Sandoval, though, there are replacements on hand. In the present, Chris Young can pick up some more playing time. In the future? Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada aren't that far off, and again, Castillo is making real money, but not prohibitive money.
So, you'd prefer the Sox didn't have any players on a list of awful contracts, but all things considered, they're in a pretty good place with the ones they do have. Both Hanley and Sandoval could rebound, and if they don't, at least in one case, the money shouldn't hold them back from finding a replacement or doing something else to improve the team. Castillo is still young enough and unproven enough that he could make this placement vanish in a hurry, and if not, it's a good thing the Sox have invested so much in their farm system.
In short, things could be worse. The Sox could be paying Albert Pujols the bulk of his $240 million contract through 2021 -- did you know he's still owed $165 million of that total? -- at the same time their owner cries poor. Which also occurs at the same time they're paying nearly $53 million of the nearly $57 million remaining on Josh Hamilton's contract. No wonder Jerry Dipoto wanted out.