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Red Sox usually avoid insuring major contracts

Pablo Sandoval appeared in only three games this season.AP

CHICAGO — Red Sox prinicipal owner John Henry, who also owns the Globe, has refrained from taking out insurance policies on players because he had a bad experience trying to collect on a claim for pitcher Alex Fernandez when Henry owned the Florida Marlins.

The general manager of the Marlins when Henry had trouble collecting on Fernandez? Dave Dombrowski.

Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder on Tuesday in Florida and will miss the rest of the season. The Red Sox will not be able to recoup any money because they do not have insurance on Sandoval, according to a report from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.


The Red Sox did not insure Sandoval’s five-year, $95 million contract because when they studied medical records on his left shoulder in the Major League Baseball database, they found what was considered normal wear and tear, according to a major league source.

“There’s a great debate on this topic — on whether to insure or not insure,” Dombrowski said Tuesday. The president of baseball operations is in Chicago to watch the Red Sox play the White Sox.

Dombrowski made the call on insurance policies when he was in charge of the Detroit Tigers. Dombrowski said he did take out insurance policies on players, “but not all of them.”

“In Detroit, we examined each case individually,’’ he said. “Nobody insures the full amount. Put it this way, I don’t know anyone who insured the full amount. It’s always a risk/reward type of thing. How much do you pay for the insurance that you get? There are all types of premiums. There are all types of opinions on whether you do or you don’t. You have to really make a decision based on the contract at the time and whether a policy is in the best interests of the team.”


Dombrowski said the cost of premiums contracts is through the roof and that teams do not insure the full amount of the contract.

One prominent insurer for baseball teams, who wished to remain anonymous, said teams spend “millions of dollars in premiums” with Lloyd’s of London and the usual amount insured is “between 50-60 percent” of the contract.

Dombrowski said there are many teams that haven’t insured players in years. Most are small-market teams that don’t have the high-ticket player, but the insurer insisted “there are many teams that still take out insurance.”

And the prominent insurer thought the Red Sox were still one of them, although teams don’t like to make that public.

Another team insurer, who also wished to remain anonymous, said the trend is insuring part of huge contracts for pitchers 30 years old and over. The insurer said he would be surprised if the Red Sox were not insuring at least part of David Price’s $217 million deal. Price is 30.

Sandoval had inflammation in the shoulder in 2011, according to a source with the San Francisco Giants, but the third baseman hadn’t missed significant time.

Whatever Boston’s medical staff found wasn’t enough to take out an insurance policy or to include a clause in the contract, as they had with J.D. Drew and John Lackey. Drew had a clause about a shoulder issue, and the clause in Lackey’s deal protected the team if the righthander required elbow surgery.


Drew’s shoulder held up fine, but Lackey had elbow surgery in 2012, triggering a clause that allowed the Red Sox to add a sixth year to the contract at the minimum salary. The Red Sox traded Lackey to St. Louis on July 31, 2014, and the Cardinals, not the Red Sox, reaped the reward of getting Lackey for at the discounted rate.

With no red flags, Sandoval passed the Red Sox’ physical and signed a five-year, $95 million deal.

Everything was fine until Sandoval dived for a ball in Toronto early in the 2016 season, which triggered inflammation, and perhaps more damage. Sandoval faces a long rehabilitation process.

In the past, the Red Sox have included language or clauses to protect them from players who have had medical issues.

When Dr. Thomas Gill was the Red Sox’ medical director, he saw something in Drew’s shoulder that resulted in a clause that held up the contract for a while. The same occurred with Lackey’s deal, and the Red Sox tried to include a clause in Jason Bay’s contract when they were trying to re-sign him as a free agent, but Bay balked and signed with the New York Mets.

The Red Sox also reduced Mike Napoli’s deal from three years to one year when they found he had chronic hip issues.

A major league source seemed surprised the Red Sox would not have a clause in Sandoval’s contract, even if the medical records showed normal wear and tear on his shoulder.


Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen, who helped then-GM Ben Cherington sign Sandoval, said Sandoval’s medicals were not alarming. “Just historical [injury] stuff, like everyone has,” said Hazen.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.