July 19: The Red Sox announced that Sandoval has been released.
July 14: The Red Sox announced that they have activated struggling third baseman Pablo Sandoval from the disabled list and designated him for assignment.
Sandoval is midway through the third season of a five-year, $95MM contract that proved to be a fatal misstep for the organization. Signed on the heels of a six-and-a-half-year span during which he posted a very strong .294/.346/.465 batting line through 3533 plate appearances with the Giants (to say nothing of his terrific postseason work), Sandoval flopped in year one of the pact, hitting just .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers in 505 plate appearances. He made just seven plate appearances in 2016 before undergoing shoulder surgery, and his 2017 work has resulted in a dismal .212/.269/.354 slash through 108 PAs.
Boston will now be on the hook for the remaining $49.8MM that Sandoval is owed through the end of the 2019 season. With a trade effectively unfathomable, Sandoval can either be outrighted to Triple-A (if he accepts the assignment) or released, at which point any club will be eligible to sign him for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.
Further exacerbating the pain that Sandoval has caused the Red Sox is the fact that his presence likely factored into the team’s thinking when it came to trading Travis Shaw to the Brewers this past offseason. Shaw, meanwhile, has broken out and been one of baseball’s most productive third baseman in his first half season with the Brewers.
For the time being, the Sox are deploying a makeshift platoon of Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin at the hot corner, and while that pairing leaves plenty to be desired from an offensive standpoint, it undoubtedly provides more defensive value than Sandoval brought to the table. Nonetheless, the Sox figure to be heavily linked to all of the third basemen that will be available on this summer’s trade market in the 17 days between now and the non-waiver trade deadline.
Of course, Boston also has a rapidly rising in-house option in the form of top prospect Rafael Devers, who ranks among the game’s five to 10 best overall prospects on most midseason rankings (No. 3 per ESPN’s Keith Law, No. 6 per Baseball America, No. 5 per Baseball Prospectus). Devers has yet to take an at-bat at the Triple-A level, and the team has said that he’ll head to Pawtucket before being promoted. That said, Devers has the potential to come up and impact the playoff race at some point in the season’s second half — particularly if president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and his staff don’t acquire a more established option at the hot corner.