If you’ve kept up with anything I’ve said this offseason, you know I’m as big a Panda fan as there is. And with the Red Sox desperately needing a real third baseman, not just a Jenny Dell dating accessory, Pablo Sandoval fits multiple needs.
1) Left handed bat in a heavy right handed lineup. Not only is he a switch hitter, but he’s a darn good one from the left side. I already wrote earlier how a short porch in left would benefit him batting right handed. You can’t tell me a lineup with Pedroia, Ortiz, Cespedes, Napoli, and Sandoval isn’t absolutely lethal (at least on video games and paper). Should Pablo have 81 games at Fenway, I suspect he would hit .285-.310. With a decline in offense, that’s a pretty solid pickup. Sandoval hit 16 homers in 2014. Modest at best. Knock that up a couple more with the Sox. Much harder to but a left handed shot at Fenway, but much easier to hit one right handed. It would balance out, at worst. I would predict 18-24 homers for the Panda in a Red Sox jersey in 2015. RBI? 80+. But his OPS has gone down in recent years, is that a concern? Yea. But walking on a crosswalk is a concern as well because you could get smashed by a car regardless. What I’m saying is that Sandoval wouldn’t be a savior for the offense, but you can’t deny he would make us a lot more efficient, especially in the postseason.
Speaking of the postseason:
2) He’s a winner. 3 rings in 5 years. THREE IN FIVE YEARS. And don’t tell me it was all just a team effort. Sandoval was vicious in route to those rings. He was so clutch it’s hard to put into words. The guy can play and he loves the spotlight. Perfect fit for Yawkey Way.
3) Personality. What the hell, you say? Personality? What does that have to do with baseball? Well, not a damn thing. But remember that chemistry from the 2013 Red Sox? It’s undeniable that had an effect on the team’s success. Sandoval is a great clubhouse guy and he and Ortiz are friends. Throw him in the locker room and you know it’s gonna brighten everyone’s day.
4) Defense. All the naysayers reading this are silently thinking, “defense? He’s huge and immobile.” How wrong you are. Sandoval is an upgrade defensively, and he’s actually quite mobile for a big fella. He makes the routine plays and goes all out to make the tougher ones. He has a pretty good arm and a knack for getting the job done.
5) He’s only 28. Barely 28 at that. Every time I mention Sandoval, the negative comments revolve around his weight and the length of 6 years. Okay, I’ll politely respect your opinion on that, but I’ll also tell you my own. Give him 6 years. By the time that runs out, he will have just turned 34. Hitters tend to age much better than pitchers (see Victor Martinez). You don’t even have to settle with putting Sandoval at third all 6 years. How about keeping him there for 3 or so, and when Ortiz retires, let Sandoval DH and play some first. There’s a perfect solution. And his weight? Hilarious that he’s even being judged on that. He’s a good player, not the fastest, but the man is a good player. Could he stand to get in better shape? Yes, but couldn’t we all? Point is, Sandoval has options with the Red Sox. We can pay him and afford to give him the 6 years he seeks. If I’m Ben, I’m offering this deal right now (hell, I’d offer a welcoming parade if it meant he would sign) and making a statement for the entire offseason.
If you’re like me, you’re hoping there will be a Panda at third base next year and beyond.