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Adam Kaufman

Red Sox Should Pass on Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval.jpg

If the rumored contract demands – something in the neighborhood of $20 million annually over five or six years – are to be believed, the Red Sox would be wise to pull away from Pablo Sandoval's dinner table.

For that money, the Giants’ free agent just isn’t worth it.

Sure, the Sox have plenty of dough (there’s a joke about Sandoval’s girth in here somewhere) and a gaping hole at third base – one which Boston manager John Farrell has already said will likely be filled by someone other than the disappointing Will Middlebrooks – but the last thing a rebuilding organization needs to do is take on yet another terrible contract waiting to happen.

Sandoval will be just 28 when the 2015 season starts. Plus.

He’ll also probably far exceed (his, ehem, listed) 245 pounds, hefty for his 5-foot-11 frame. Minus.

Sandoval is a two-time All-Star, has finished in the top 10 in the National League MVP race, and was a gold glove finalist last season. Plus.

Since 2009, his first full major league season, he’s reached 150 games three times in six years and failed to play in 120 twice. Durability has been a sizable question. Minus.

The Red Sox would ideally prefer another lefthander to balance out their lineup. Sandoval’s a switch-hitter. Plus.

Sandoval was miserable as a righty against lefties in 2014, batting .199 with a .563 OPS in 205 plate appearances. Minus.

The infielder is a three-time World Series champ with a career .344 postseason average and .935 OPS. In the championship round, Sandoval has a .426 average, three homers, eight RBI, and a whopping 1.162 OPS in a dozen contests, along with one MVP honor. Huge plus.

His average, on-base-percentage, slugging mark, and OPS have also gradually fallen over each of the last four seasons, while his strikeout totals have steadily risen. In 2011, Sandoval hit.315 with 23 homers, 70 RBI, and a .909 OPS in a mere 117 contests. That was the last time he belted 20 home runs or hit .300. He’s never exceeded 90 RBI or walked 55 times in a season. In 2014, he appeared in a career-high 157 games, but batted .279 with 16 long-balls, 73 RBI, and a .739 OPS. Very concerning minus.

When it comes to the Kung Fu Panda, it’s impossible not to weigh (sorry, this is too easy) all sides.

The bottom-line with Sandoval is simple to understand: He’s an above-average regular season performer and a force in the playoffs. Does that make him worth $20 mil a year? Normally, maybe, but not when he’s so clearly already on the decline and his size makes him a severe risk of a lower-body injury. A deal of any significant length would be almost guaranteeing the reality of at least one bad year or two on the end; maybe earlier if a large payday makes him a little too fat and happy for those extra conditioning drills during the season.

Now, four years for Sandoval and about $75 million? That’s absolutely worth pursuing. But it’d never happen. The career-Giant (you get it) and cuddly fan-favorite would scoff at that as quickly as San Fran’s qualifying offer. Odds are he’s heading back to the Bay Area or, if not, cashing in somewhere other than Boston.

Sox GM Ben Cherington will have to explore other options, be it Hanley Ramirez (another price-conscious decision), Chase Headley, or someone from within. Mookie Betts has never played the position, but Boston would love to keep his bat in the lineup if last year’s audition wasn’t an aberration. Allen Craig, if healthy, could be worthy of consideration, though he probably couldn’t handle the job on a regular basis. There’s also Larry Lucchino favorite Garin Cecchini, but he’s still too unproven. Brock Holt is a utility player.

If you’re still obsessing over the money, yes, it’s available. There’s no salary cap in baseball and John Henry and company are bursting with Benjamins. However, ownership is only willing to spend to a certain threshold, and their best bet would be to allocate those funds on pitching first. In all likelihood they will, even if we’re bound to continuing living in a world where Jon Lester reports to a new Nation.

As for Sandoval, this will be a flirtation with Boston at best, so sit back and wait for him to mash the Giants to another Series title in 2016.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman and email me here.

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