Pablo Sandoval has certainly provided fodder for media and baseball executives and scouts who are curious to see what the Red Sox will do with the third baseman. He has been the most newsworthy player in major league baseball this season.
Certainly, this new, mysterious shoulder ailment has set the team back as far as trying to deal him. It also raised a few eyebrows from Sox rivals, even in the procedural manner in which they placed him on the disabled list, and the league is reviewing that process.
Since then, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski spoke of medical findings concerning Sandoval’s shoulder, and that the player will go see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Monday. It will be interesting to see whether there’s any surgery involved.
What the DL at least has done is kick the can down the road, which for the Red Sox is OK because it doesn’t appear they have reached the point where they feel comfortable trading or releasing the third baseman.
With fewer than 10 games played in the season, most teams aren’t willing to take on Sandoval’s issues, let alone part of his contract. As one American League executive explained, “Things change when there are injuries. Third base is not always the easiest position to replace when you have an injury. While everyone seems to have a decent third baseman, it’s the depth beyond that that’s hard to come by. So at some point, if a contending team loses a third baseman, then a proven veteran who might be available would be more attractive if the money situation can be worked out.”
Another AL executive doesn’t think Sandoval has any value.
But Sandoval is still respected for his big-play capability. Everyone has seen what he can do on the biggest stage. He is truly one of the top postseason performers of all time. That’s why the Red Sox, Giants, and Padres all bid for him just two winters ago.
The root of the problem here is obvious — Sandoval’s weight. What’s strange to many is that all teams have nutritionists who help players with weight management and dietary needs. We’ve heard stories from former teammates of Sandoval who have witnessed his food intake, and they say it’s legendary.
What’s interesting here is that neither the Giants nor the Red Sox have complained about Sandoval’s work ethic. Both teams have said Sandoval always worked out and met team guidelines for strength and conditioning in terms of workouts.
The problem has been monitoring food intake, because it’s impossible to be with him 24 hours a day.
And so you have those embarrassing pictures of his belly and his belt buckle popping off his waist after a strong swing.
Sandoval’s former personal trainer, Ethan Banning of Phoenix, recently told the Boston Herald that Sandoval once gained 21 pounds in 21 days after returning home to Venezuela in 2011.
The Red Sox have maintained that they have never warned or threatened Sandoval with benching if he didn’t lose weight. Dombrowski disputed a Yahoo story that the Red Sox told Sandoval that if he didn’t lose weight, he wouldn’t play. Dombrowski was adamant that any decision not to play Sandoval was performance-based and that “John Farrell has the final say on who plays.”
Of course, the Red Sox would love to see Sandoval shed pounds and become more limber at third base. The Giants staff always felt Sandoval became more adept in the field when he lighter. The Giants never thought Sandoval’s weight was an issue when he was at the plate. There have been plenty of hefty players who hit well carrying extra weight, such as Boog Powell, George Scott, Cecil and Prince Fielder, Dmitri Young, and John Kruk.
Sandoval, with a .790 career OPS, has shown that he can be a good hitter even with the extra weight. Yet the Giants were on him pretty regularly about his weight and gave him weight goals to hit. The Red Sox have been afraid to speak about Sandoval’s weight.
In fact, the Giants feel that one big reason Sandoval left them was because of their constant harping on his weight. Sandoval was noticeably slimmer when he showed up at camp in 2014, but then hit just .177 in the first month and didn’t get above .200 until May 14. As Sandoval regained some weight, he hit better and finished the season at .279 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs.
Sandoval lost 38 pounds prior to the 2011 season and had his best defensive campaign with plus-15 defensive runs saved. The year before he was minus-3. He also hit .315 with 23 homers and 70 RBIs in 2011.
So what are the options?
The most plausible is to keep him and hope he turns things around. The problem is Travis Shaw. He’s obviously a favorite of Farrell’s, and unless he goes into a deep slump, it’s going to be hard for Sandoval to unseat Shaw at third base. An injury to either Shaw or Hanley Ramirez could provide an opening.
The Red Sox will keep the door open for a possible deal. The Padres seem like the best trade partner since they had interest in Sandoval two offseasons ago and are getting poor production at third base from Yangervis Solarte (injured) and his backups.
The Red Sox could release Sandoval and cut their losses. But the fact that Sandoval has lost considerable weight at times is perhaps a reason to believe he can do it again and produce at his career averages.
Sandoval’s agent, Rick Thurman, did not return calls on this subject, but he did have a long meeting with Dombrowski to go over Sandoval’s medical game plan.
Two things are now clear: Sandoval, who is only 29, must tend to his shoulder first, but he must also get help for his eating issues, which if not dealt with once and for all could curtail his career.
NO MINOR MATTER
Veterans doing best to hang on
Better than nothing?
That’s certainly how some players are feeling about taking a minor league assignment rather than be out of baseball altogether.
Nick Swisher, who was making $15 million when cut by the Braves, hooked on with the Yankees on a minor league deal, and he will try to prove himself at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in hopes of showing the Yankees that he can still hit and perhaps fill a role later in the season.
David Murphy, who before being released by the Red Sox during training camp said that he’d contemplate retirement if he couldn’t stay with a major league team, recently signed to play with the Twins’ Triple A affiliate. Same with veteran relievers Neal Cotts and Al Alburquerque (Angels’ Triple A), former Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop (Rangers’ Triple A), and Jeremy Guthrie (Padres’ Triple A).
Allen Craig, the second-highest-paid minor leaguer ($9.5 million), is currently on the disabled list for Triple A Pawtucket.
Will Middlebrooks has gone from the Red Sox to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Brewers’ Triple A). Former Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish is with Iowa (Cubs’ Triple A). Former Red Sox first baseman Lars Anderson is with Oklahoma City (Dodgers’ Triple A). Sacramento (Giants’ Triple A) has two former big league catchers in Miguel Olivo and former Red Sox backstop George Kottaras.
Lehigh Valley (Phillies’ Triple A) employs Andrew Bailey and former Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia. Matt Capps and Kyle Drabek are with Reno (Diamondbacks’ Triple A). Former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway is with Gwinnett (Braves’ Triple A), and his teammates include former big league speedster Emilio Bonifacio and Reid Brignac.
Former Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez is with Charlotte (White Sox’ Triple A). Columbus (Indians’ Triple A) has veteran pitchers Tom Gorzelanny and Tommy Hunter. Durham (Rays’ Triple A) has former Mariners shortstop Nick Franklin.
Former Red Sox reliever David Aardsma is with Buffalo (Blue Jays’ Triple A), where his pitching coach is Bob Stanley and his manager is Gary Allenson. Former Red Sox coach Richie Hebner is the hitting coach at Buffalo, where he’s working with former Red Sox first baseman Casey Kotchman and former Yankee and Mariner Jesus Montero.
You never know when a name from the past will wind up back in the big leagues. They’re all fighting for a chance to get back in a major league uniform.
Apropos of nothing
1. We mourn the loss of our old friend Chuck Waseleski, who provided us with ahead-of-his time stats here at the Globe for many years. One thing I forgot to mention in my appreciation column is that when Oil Can Boyd got nabbed for some overdue videos years ago in Winter Haven, Fla., Waseleski came up with the memorable line of “The Can’s Film Festival.”
2. For all the naysayers who didn’t think the Red Sox should go after Cole Hamels last season, consider that the Rangers have won the last 13 regular-season games he’s started.
3. According to the gambling website Bovada, the Braves’ Fredi Gonzalez is the odds-on favorite to be the first manager fired. The odds: Gonzalez 1/1; Colorado’s Walt Weiss 7/2; Minnesota’s Paul Molitor 4/1; the Mets’ Terry Collins 8/1; the Yankees’ Joe Girardi 10/1; the Angels’ Mike Scioscia 12/1; and Miami’s Don Mattingly 25/1. No mention of John Farrell.
4. If you think the Yankees’ bullpen is just hype, consider that New York leads the majors with 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings among its relievers, whiffing 36 of 103 batters faced entering Friday while walking just six. They rank third in the majors with a 6.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances have combined to strike out 15 of 28 batters faced (53.6 percent). And Aroldis Chapman has yet to pitch.
Updates on nine
1. Ryan Hanigan, C, Red Sox — The Rangers are looking for a front-line catcher, and though Hanigan is a backup in Boston he was a No. 1 catcher in Cincinnati and Tampa Bay. Robinson Chirinos fractured his right forearm and could be gone until at least the All-Star break, and maybe beyond. Bryan Holaday, who was acquired from Detroit March 29, and rookie Brett Nicholas are handling the Rangers’ catching duties for now. The Red Sox also have veterans Dan Butler and Sandy Leon in Pawtucket.
2. Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF, Cardinals — Hazelbaker spent seven years in the minors with the Red Sox and Dodgers before getting a shot with St. Louis this year. He hit safely in eight straight games, with three home runs, before going 0 for 4 Friday. Hazelbaker, at 28, was the fourth-oldest player in the Cardinals’ lineup on Wednesday, even older than starting pitcher Mike Leake, who is in his seventh big league season.
3. Jake Peavy, RHP, Giants — Peavy on Wednesday became just the third pitcher in the last 50 years to give up at least 10 extra-base hits in one game, joining two other former Red Sox in Curt Schilling (2006, with the Sox) and Luis Tiant (1969, with the Indians). Peavy set a Giants record for the San Francisco era.
4. Justin Masterson, RHP, Pirates — Masterson tried out for teams last week and impressed the Pirates, who are known for reclamation projects. The Pirates sent the righthander to extended spring training. Masterson, 31, had shoulder surgery last September while with the Red Sox. He was an All-Star in 2013 with the Indians but was 11-11 with a 5.79 ERA in his last two seasons, with declining velocity likely caused by the shoulder problem. The Pirates are really thin behind Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano in their rotation.
5. Michael Morse, 1B/DH, free agent — Morse is another example of a team not messing around with a struggling player early in the season. Morse was 0 for 8 before the Pirates designated him for assignment. Morse, 34, hit .247 with one home run in 51 games for the Pirates, who acquired him from the Dodgers last July 31. The Dodgers are paying $2.93 million of Morse’s $8 million salary this season. If Morse clears waivers and signs a major league contract with another club, a prorated share of the $507,500 minimum would be offset against what the Pirates owe.
6. Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Phillies — The 23-year-old, who was obtained from Houston in the Ken Giles deal, struck out 16 Padres Thursday in a three-hit shutout. He hasn’t allowed a run in two starts. Interesting story: While a high school junior in Pomona, Calif., he had bone spurs in his right elbow so he pitched lefthanded the entire season. His dad, Leonard, is a UPS driver and an autograph collector who would bring his son to Angels and Dodgers games to get player autographs.
7. Nick Gordon, SS, Twins — Former Red Sox reliever Tom Gordon already has one son, Dee Gordon, excelling in the major leagues with the Marlins. But it won’t be long before he has two sons in the big leagues. Nick, a first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2014 draft, was third in the Florida State League with a .400 batting average through Friday. Gordon can run (25 steals last season) and while not a power hitter, already has a home run this season. “Like Dee, Nick is fun to watch and loves playing the game,” said an AL scout who covers the Florida State League. “It’s not going to take him long to rise through the system.”
8. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Yankees — Chapman is in extended spring training in Tampa as he finishes out his 30-game suspension, which is due to expire May 9. But he is not eligible to pitch in any minor league games on a rehab assignment, so he’ll have to hit the ground running when he returns. The Yankees aren’t too worried about that.
9. Ken Giles, RHP, Astros — The former Phillies closer has struggled with his new team, and didn’t even keep the closer’s job out of spring training. The feeling is Giles has the chance to regain the job if he pitches well in a setup role, but so far he’s been a major disappointment. Giles throws 100-plus miles per hour, but he hasn’t missed too many bats. In four appearances he allowed four hits, including three home runs, in 3⅔ innings.
From Rick Swanson, “The Fan’s Commish”: “In 2016, each team is striking out 8.45 times per nine innings. That means per game we are watching 16.90 strikeouts per nine innings. Last year a record was set for the 10th straight year at 7.76 per nine innings, or 15.52 per game. While 2016 is only a small sample, this increase is unheard of. Since 2000, the largest jump from one year was in 2012, when they increased to 7.56 from 7.13 in 2011. The pace set in 2016 is currently .69 higher, or 1.38 more per game than last year. There are four pitching staffs averaging over 10 strikeouts per nine innings in 2016. Royals 10.78, Yankees 10.43, Red Sox 10.29, and Phillies 10.22. The record was 8.89 by Cleveland in 2014. It is only a small sample in 2016, but these numbers are alarming. If there are only 54 outs in a game and strikeouts account for 16.90 of those outs, then there is not much action going on. Thirty-one percent of outs are strikeouts in the game today. A decade ago that number was 24 percent. The most alarming part is 2016 is 8 percent higher than the record set in 2015.” . . . Happy 32d birthday, Jed Lowrie.
The Mets’ rotation is the envy of baseball: Five pitchers age 27 or younger, all projecting to have front-of-the-rotation talent. And they’re very cost friendly — they’ll be paid a combined $6,529,375 in 2016, a sum less than the salaries of 85 pitchers around baseball. Even better for the Mets, none are eligible for free agency until 2019 at the earliest. Contract information according to USA Today, which used numbers from MLB’s central office that calculates bonuses and deferrals as well as straight salary.
|Pitcher||Team||2015 record||2016 salary||Signed through|
|Justin Verlander||Tigers||5-8 (3.38 ERA)||$28 million||2019|
|CC Sabathia||Yankees||6-10 (4.73 ERA)||$25 million||2016|
|Jered Weaver||Angels||7-12 (4.64 ERA)||$20.2 million||2016|
|Rick Porcello||Red Sox||9-15 (4.92 ERA)||$20.1 million||2019|
|Matt Cain||Giants||2-4 (5.79 ERA)||$20.8 million||2017|