Full disclosure: I did not want to write about Pablo Sandoval today.
That, frankly, has been true every day for the past year. But today, I thought perhaps I could avoid it. Or at least make him secondary to the story. The idea was instead to focus on Travis Shaw. That with Sandoval going under the knife, Shaw was even more important to the team now. Except that doesn't really make any sense because the presence or absence of a sub-replacement-level player shouldn't have any impact on a guy whose 125 career OPS+ is being pulled up by an excellent start.
Alright, then, how about this: Travis Shaw can end the Pablo Sandoval story in Boston. Oh, it's a tempting thought. A few more good months out of Shaw, a full season where he's even half as good as he's been thus far, and we'll never have to even consider Pablo Sandoval again. At the worst, he'll be another Allen Craig. A reminder of missteps in years past, but not one that really gets any spotlight.
Only, no, that doesn't really work either. After all, even if Travis Shaw ends up in the All-Star game, third base is not the only position in play here. Hanley Ramirez' bat isn't really looking all that great at first, and David Ortiz is calling it a career at the end of the season. There will be room for Pablo Sandoval come November, when the Red Sox start to consider how best to approach the offseason.
Which leaves us with this: Pablo Sandoval's Red Sox saga isn't over yet.
Let's be clear on what this doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that Pablo Sandoval will ever play baseball in a Red Sox uniform again. Or in the uniform of one of their minor league teams, for that matter. The Red Sox could decide that being rid of the Sandoval headache is a better use of the nearly $60 million he's owed than, well, paying him to play for them. There are teams that will pay some pittance for Sandoval. The option is certainly always open to the Sox to essentially gift their third baseman to the first one that offers a lottery ticket minor leaguer and a couple million dollars.
But it does mean that's not the outcome we can just assume.
Dave Dombrowski is free of any sort of attachments to Ben Cherington's contracts at least in terms of ego and reputation, that much is true. And we've already seen how willing he is to see a player like Sandoval benched or to send a guy like Rusney Castillo to the minors. But the fact is that Pablo Sandoval was, not long ago, valued highly by quite a few teams, and this layoff does provide Sandoval with a chance to regroup. If the shoulder was part of what made him so miserable in 2015, who knows, we may be looking at another John Lackey situation come 2017.
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That's the best-case scenario. But not a likely one. Which is why it's almost concerning that it's even possible.
The good news, if you're dreading the Return of Sandoval, is that there's plenty of free agent talent that could interest the Red Sox at first base or DH. The bad news, if you're dreading the next Sandoval, is that there's plenty of free agent talent that could interest the Red Sox at first base or DH. There's also Sam Travis in the minor leagues, though he's not really managed to carry his hot streak over from Fort Myers to Pawtucket. If Hanley Ramirez can get his bat going again, there are going to be plenty of scenarios that keep Sandoval out of the picture.
And if he doesn't...or if the Sox decide not to pursue the likes of Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion...That's when the headache might well resume.
So we have a reprieve, Red Sox fans. And with Travis Shaw playing like a star, it's all that much easier to forget the man he replaced. But the reprieve is temporary, and unless everything goes right, Pablo Sandoval will be back in the picture eventually, whether we like it or not.