Looking to rebound from their second last-place finish in three seasons and with money to spend, the Boston Red Sox made two big splashes on Monday when they agreed to terms with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval received a five-year, $95 million contract with a club option at $17 million for a sixth season. The Red Sox will have the option to buy out that sixth year for $5 million in 2020 when the third baseman will be 34 years old.
In seven Major League seasons, the switch-hitter has a .294/.346/.465 slash line with 106 home runs and 462 RBIs. He has won three World Series titles with the San Francisco Giants, who will now have to replace his production. The silver lining for the Giants is that Brian Sabean has always been able to plug emerging holes in the team’s roster, but the loss of Sandoval is unlike one the club has experienced during their current run of success.
What hurts the Giants most is they offered "Kung Fu Panda" a very similar contract without signifying that an increase was out of the question if negotiations continued, according to numerous reports. The San Diego Padres also offered Sandoval a five-year deal in the $95 million range, but to put it bluntly the Padres aren’t the Giants or Red Sox.
The Red Sox introduced Sandoval as the newest member of the team on Tuesday and he admitted choosing Boston over San Francisco was “tough.” He added that playing at Fenway Park “was one of the things I was thinking about in my decision.”
When you consider the recent success of both franchises, similar contract offers and familiarity the 28-year-old had with the Giants, it’s difficult to settle on a reason why he would leave the Bay Area for New England.
Sandoval’s weight was a long-running point of contention between the Venezuelan and the San Francisco front office, but he claims to have never taken the organization’s concerns personally. He has also already committed to working with Boston’s trainers to help keep his weight under control. So did the Giants upset Sandoval with their concerns about his weight? Maybe, but that’s not the reason he passed on a chance to stick around.
In the wake of this deal, some of his former Giants teammates have expressed both a love for Sandoval and knowledge of his desire to take care of his family financially. The truth is that every a five-year, $95 million deal isn’t the same.
Ray Ratto of CSN Bay Area spoke with Forbes and uncovered the truth about the difference between $95 million in California and Massachusetts. Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes estimates that Sandoval will earn an additional $3.735 million over five years in Boston than he would have in San Francisco. The details can be found in Ratto’s piece, but the short of it is that Massachusetts has a flat personal income tax, while California uses a progressive rate.
Grade for Sandoval: A-
For Sandoval, he gives himself another avenue into the lineup if his body and defense don’t hold up as a member of the American League. That, in addition to the tax benefit, make the Red Sox a nice fit.
The Giants know what they are losing, but what are the Red Sox gaining?
Boston was in dire need of a third baseman after Will Middlebrooks failed to progress in 2014. The 26-year-old hit .191/.256/.265 in 234 plate appearances, numbers that Sandoval can put up with one eye closed. Sandoval gives John Farrell some variety in the batting lineup. He’ll help balance a mostly right-handed batting order.
It’s hard to calculate how instrumental David Ortiz was in getting Sandoval to come to Boston. Ironically, it's conceivable that Ben Cherington plans to slide Sandoval to designated hitter, opening up third base, when the Ortiz, 39, finally retires.
Sandoval produced very well at AT&T Park, hitting .313/.365/.488, but those numbers figure to swell at Fenway Park. He has never logged a plate appearance in Boston, but it bodes well that his average at his former home park, which is famously cavernous, is better than his overall line.
He has long been seen as a perfect fit for Fenway and Cherington identified him as his main target this offseason. The Red Sox had money to spend and aren’t an organization that can simply stand by after a last-place finish. For so many years they wanted to be seen as a perennial contender much different than the rival New York Yankees, but that can no longer hide behind that façade. They spend with the best of them.
Grade for Red Sox: B+
Any contract of this size carries some risk, but Sandoval isn’t as big a risk as one might think. He’s a great hitter, produces in the postseason, plays better defense than the average fan thinks and will only be 33 years old in the final guaranteed year of the deal.