The Padres have a scout watching the Red Sox. That's not much of a surprise, given it's spring training and teams are already starting to think about the moves they would like to make later in the year -- there are scouts watching teams everywhere, every day. What's noteworthy, though, is that this scout is watching Pablo Sandoval, who is fighting for a job in Boston, and also happens to be a former free agent target of San Diego.
The Red Sox would be willing to trade Sandoval. The Padres are likely trying to figure out if they would still be willing to acquire him. When they attempted to sign Sandoval after 2014, he was coming off a strong season that helped create a three-way bidding war between the Padres, Red Sox, and Sandoval's former team, the Giants. It only makes sense that San Diego would attempt to find out if Sandoval, who very well could be on the bench in Boston at some point in 2016, has anything left to offer that resembles what attracted the Padres to him in the first place.
And away from the scrutiny of Boston, he might. Sometimes, the effects of the always-on media surrounding the Red Sox can be overhyped, but there are times where free agents come into town and don't react well to what happens when you struggle. Carl Crawford has admitted that it was a problem when he was with the Sox, and that it was a mistake to ever sign here. You don't want to put words in Sandoval's mouth, but if you had the choice between Boston's overbearing echo chamber when you're already struggling and what would happen in San Diego if you did, you can see how the latter would be a tempting proposition. And maybe even beneficial. Change of scenery trades are a thing for a reason, because sometimes, that's all a player needs.
Sox, Padres talking trade, but not for Shields
The Sox want a Padres pitcher, but it's not the one everyone is assuming it is.
Just what the Sox would get back for Sandoval is unclear, however. They would likely need to pay a portion of his deal, and potentially a significant one. Sandoval is still owed $75 million over the next four years (his option for 2020 has a $5 million buyout), so he's not cheap, but at the same time, both the Padres spending and their revenue is up, and they aren't in a position to be dealing prospects to teams willing to pay off huge chunks of expensive deals.
So, one wonders if the Padres would prefer to eat most of the money themselves in order to hold on to their kids. Maybe they are hoping that eventually, impending free agent Andrew Cashner looks like he's in a place to be traded to the Sox for Sandoval (and that the Sox are in a place where they need Cashner), along with whatever else from both sides would get that kind of deal done. It seems unlikely that any trade would involve Tyson Ross unless it's a much larger deal than anyone should be speculating on in March, and the concept of a James Shields for Sandoval swap makes little sense for either side for a number of reasons.
So, it's more likely that no one is thinking too hard about all of this right now, and the Padres are simply checking in on a player they missed out on a year ago to see if there is something there that Boston is not seeing or not appreciating. Like with the Sox talking to the Padres about a trade for a pitcher, this is probably a case of keeping options open and checking in for later on.