Pablo Sandoval’s weight isn’t the problem, it is his contract

Pablo Sandoval is a hefty guy. To the somewhat bewildering amazement of many, he was visibly hefty when he arrived at the Red Sox spring training facility this past Sunday.

Throughout his abysmal first season in Boston, Sandoval appeared quite bulky. So naturally in order for Sandoval to be the player the Red Sox want and need him to be, he needs to lose weight?

Wrong.

Was Sandoval svelte when he slashed .429/.467/.536, and played a big role in helping his former team, the San Francisco Giants to their third World Series in five seasons? Not exactly.

What about when he slashed .500/.529/1.654 and won the 2012 World Series MVP award? Surely a man who can post those numbers while performing on the sport’s grandest stage had to be in tip-top shape?

Not according to the picture below.

Sandoval 2012 WS

A not even remotely slim Pablo Sandoval singles in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. Sandoval hit three home runs in the San Francisco Giants’ 8-3 win over the Detroit Tigers. Kelley L Cox/USA Today

The point here is this. Pablo Sandoval isn’t a slim guy. He’s been a very good baseball player as a hefty guy. He’s been a mediocre baseball player as a hefty guy, and unfortunately for the Red Sox, last season he was a pretty bad baseball player, who also happened to be quite hefty.

He was big when the Red Sox agreed to sign him to a contract that guaranteed him $95 million over five years. He was big when the San Francisco Giants made him their starting third baseman for most of the 2009 season.

The weight has always been an issue, and if former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was under the impression that Sandoval, at the age of 28 was going to undergo some sort of “biggest loser” type of transformation after signing with the Red Sox, that was probably not a safe bet.

The real issue with Sandoval isn’t the weight. The real issue is the performance, and while the weight may at times have a negative impact on his performance, Sandoval has been able to put together a solid career in spite of it.

Once he inked that nearly $100 million deal with the Red Sox, a “solid” career was never going to cut it.

Back in 2012, the year he was the World Series MVP, Sandoval slashed .283/.342/.447, he hit 12 home runs with 63 RBI’s. Those are by no means amazing numbers, but when you’re getting paid $3.2 million, that type of production isn’t just acceptable, it is a bargain!

In 2014, the year prior to his free agency, Sandoval slashed .279/.324/.415. Add in 16 long balls and 73 RBI’s and you’ve got yourself a decent third baseman who happens to save his best performances for the postseason.

The Giants spent $8.25 million for Sandoval’s services that year. That’s a lot more than in 2012, but all things considered that’s still an acceptable pay rate for starting third baseman who is decent in the field and at the plate.

The Red Sox threw nearly $100 million at Pablo Sandoval, that’s the type of contract that demands All-Star, or at least near All-Star caliber performance. Sandoval did make the All-Star team in 2011 and 2012, but that’s two appearances in six major league seasons, and with Sandoval nearing 30, assuming a return to that level of production would seem silly.

As it turns out, it was silly.

Don’t blame Sandoval for putting pen to paper and signing the deal. Not unless you’re willing to somehow convince everyone that if you were presented with that much guaranteed money, you’d be able to pass it up because you weren’t sure you could fulfill the expectations that come along with it.

In this case the blame should fall squarely on former GM Ben Cherington and anyone else in the Red Sox organization that thought Sandoval would ever be able to fulfill the expectations which would inevitably come along with his deal.

The deal was absurd from the get-go. Even if Sandoval hadn’t had a career worst 2015, are we really going to sit there and pretend that a slash line of. 288/.339/.452 with 17 home runs and 80 RBI’s would have satisfied Red Sox fans? Those stats are close to Sandoval’s statical averages.

Sandoval is getting paid more annually than either Dustin Pedroia or David Ortiz. He makes more than ten times that of future All-Stars Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts.

The Minnesota Twins paid 29 year old Trevor Plouffe $4.8 million last year. He slashed .244/.307/.435 with 22 home runs and 86 RBI’s. He did that while playing the bulk of his games in pitcher-friendly Target Field.

For now, Sandoval’s weight is the issue, but don’t deceive yourselves Red Sox fans. It is unlikely that Sandoval ever truly fulfills the expectations that his contract places on him. Not on an annual basis at least. What Red Sox fans can and should hope for is that Sandoval reverts back to the player he was for most of his time with the Giants.

That’s a decent regular season third baseman who provides some power along with a decent glove. That guy also saves his biggest hits and best performances for the playoffs and World Series.

He’s not getting traded, and barring something unforeseen he’s not getting benched. Sandoval has four-years and $75 million left on his contract. He is the starting third baseman for the Boston Red Sox through 2016 and most likely through 2017 and even 2018.

If Sandoval tanks again this year that’s a major problem, but it is reasonable to expect him to return to his more standard performance levels. The problem is that those standards will still fall short of the expectations that his annual salary places on him.

 

 

 

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