The Red Sox offense has been frustrating for the majority of this season, and while they’ve shown flashes of the kind of lineup we expected it is still clear they could use another bat. Given the makeup of the roster, it’s fairly obvious that this bat would come at third base, as that’s been the worst position on the diamond for this team all year long. Now, the team has gotten some stability at the position of late from Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin. It’s hard to see them as a sustainable duo for the rest of the year, though. We’ve seen crazier things than someone like Lin actually turning into a legitimate regular in this league, but with just a few more weeks until the trade deadline the Red Sox don’t have time to be sure that’s true. I would still expect them to swing a trade for someone to play the hot corner.
While there is still some question over whether or not that is the correct strategy, what is becoming increasingly clear is that it is time for the Red Sox to move on from Pablo Sandoval. Now, I’m sure many of you would argue that it’s been that time for a while at this point, and I can’t really argue with that. Still, it’s not easy to walk away from such a big commitment, and you can understand the Red Sox giving it all these chances.
That being said, Sandoval’s presence in this organization is simply untenable at this point. There is no place for him here. Currently, the veteran is in Pawtucket on a rehab assignment, somewhere he’s been since June 27. Unfortunately, the Red Sox can’t simply stash him on a rehab assignment for as long as they’d like. Position players have 20 days to make it back to the major-league roster, meaning Sandoval would have to return to the major-league roster by July 17. That’s a week away, and it’s hard to imagine how the Red Sox will find room for Sandoval on the roster in just a week.
It would be one thing if the third baseman was playing reasonably well against Triple-A competition. Even if he was, most of us still wouldn’t be confident in him against major-league pitching, but it would make us feel a little better. Instead, he is hitting just .271/.286/.333 in 49 plate appearances. That is a small enough sample that one could easily brush it off as meaningless, which is probably true. However, when it simply backs up our preconceived notions about Sandoval — and it certainly does in this case — it’s hard to ignore.
So, over the next week the Red Sox are left with two options beyond simply eating the contract and cutting him loose. For one thing, they could just give him another chance on the major-league roster while they search for a replacement outside the organization. This would involve demoting one of Marrero or Lin in the process. On the one hand, I could see this happening as it gives Sandoval another week or two to prove himself while they look for a trade target. If he plays well, they can keep him on the bench. If he doesn’t, they can just cut him loose in a couple of weeks instead of right now. The issue with this strategy is that it would make the team worse, even over a short timespan. The American League East is extremely close right now and figures to be close all year long. With that in mind, there’s really no justifying making the major-league roster worse.
The other option would be finding some minor (read: phantom) ailment to place Sandoval back on the disabled list and restart his rehab clock in a week or so. Essentially, this is the option to keep the status quo. They’d get to keep Marrero and Lin on the major-league roster while still giving Sandoval another chance. However, it seems to me this would just be delaying the inevitable. It would also mean they’d have to cut Jhonny Peralta loose, as they’ll need a spot for Rafael Devers in Pawtucket. Now, Peralta hasn’t played anywhere near well enough that we should be concerned about him being cut loose. However, it seems like a waste when cutting Sandoval appears to be inevitable at this point.
No, it makes the most sense to simply bite the bullet now and move on from this disaster of a signing. Obviously, that’s way easier for me to say, as I wouldn’t be the one paying all this money for someone no longer on the roster. Still, they are paying the money either way, and Sandoval’s presence makes the major-league team worse and it gets in the way of the development of the organization’s top prospect. This has all been said without mentioning Brock Holt, who could also be returning from the disabled list relatively soon. Given the severity of his injuries, a return shouldn’t be banked on, but his presence only makes things more complicated to find room for Sandoval.
All of this makes me sad, because I was excited about the possibility of Sandoval as early as this spring (although, admittedly, that was more me hoping he’d be good rather than expecting it). Still, at a certain point you have to accept things aren’t going to work out. The Red Sox have reached that point with Sandoval.