Hi, everyone! AK Lingus here, ready to resume my series on rekindling my love of the Red Sox through following the reclamation project that is Pablo Sandoval in 2016. Let me just log in and check the OTM headlines, and...
"Red Sox bench Pablo Sandoval, put Travis Shaw at third base"
...oh. Oh, no.
A few reactions to this news:
1. I can't say I'm exactly surprised by this. Shaw's spring training numbers are certainly quite solid and a fair sight better than Sandoval's (as are his numbers dating back to 2015), and if spring training is actually meant as an avenue for players to earn a starting position and not a big fat rubber stamp for the "big names" to make sure they stay in the lineup card, then this is proof that the system works. If nothing else, it's encouraging to see the Sox not consider Pablo a sunk cost.
2. That said, there's obviously no reason that this has to be permanent, and it might well be in the best interest of the club if it's not. Marc Normandin broke it down quite well here -- given the uncertainty surrounding DH once Papi hangs it up, the uncertainty of how Hanley Ramirez, First Baseman shakes out, and the major uncertainty of whether Shaw can carry his spring training performance over to the regular season, there's a fairly good chance Pablo won't just be nailed to the bench until his contract expires. And let's hope that's the case, because it's one thing to not keep trotting him out there just because he did a lot of good things on another baseball team, but another entirely to have a roster spot taken up by a guy who can't contribute anything.
3. Yes, I'd seen the rumors about the Padres' interest in Pablo. And while I'd be happy to see Pablo play for the Pads, who I developed a very soft spot for after living in San Diego for four years, a) I don't really think it would come to anything, and b) the Sox would probably have to end up eating a significant portion of Pablo's deal, which always tends to put a bit of a damper on things (unless the player is such a malcontent that even the proverbial "bag of balls" trade would be worth it, and I don't think Pablo qualifies, although it's close). Given that I don't think there's any sort of trade value there anyway, this is the sort of thing that you can sit on until the conditions are more in Boston's favor. Granted, that's a pretty big "until".
4. And then there's everything that Ben Buchanan touches on here, especially the look into the future. You don't have to look any farther than our old pals in the Bronx to see what happens when a team loads up on aging, overpriced stars with huge contracts. Yes, Mark Teixeira rebounded significantly last season from his previous "switch-hitting zombie" status, but I'd say that's much more of an outlier than what's happened to Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and the like in the past few years.
Yes, I think the Sox are in a better position with regards to the farm system and the club's next five years, but it doesn't take very much to end up right in the same boat -- a few injuries here, some prospects not panning out there, and so on. Who the hell wants to see a rickety group of over-the-hill players win 87 games and get smoked in the Wild Card game by a younger and hungrier club?
So, is this the end of Panda Watch? I'm going to go cautiously optimistic and say no -- I do think Panda will make it back to the starting lineup soon enough, and I'd like to think that maybe this is the kick in the ass he really needs. Or he might end up on the West Coast tomorrow. But whatever happens, I hope it's for the best. In Farrell we trust.