The Boston Red Sox designated World Series hero Pablo Sandoval for assignment two weeks ago. The Panda just couldn’t cut it in Boston’s lineup. But then, Saturday, his old team the Giants picked him up, dropping him onto its San Jose (A+) roster.
Considering a struggling Maikel Franco and Sandoval’s extremely low price tag, the Phillies should’ve seen what they could’ve gotten out of him.
Sandoval is still a young player at 30. For as much as he’s done and as long as he’s seemingly been around 30 is still pretty manageable. Certainly his skills shouldn’t have fallen off the cliff they seemingly have at this young an age. He should still be a viable contributor hitting the sweet spot of his career, not planning his retirement.
For whatever reason Sandoval just couldn’t handle playing in Boston. It’s not atypical – plenty of players have had a tough time preforming as a Red Sox. JD Drew slashed .286/.393/.512 while in the National League with the Cardinals, Dodgers and Braves, but when he got to Boston he only managed a .264/.370/.455 line. Edgar Renteria slashed .289/.346/.400 with the Marlins and Cardinals before coming to the Red Sox. He spent one year there, his age 28 season, and only managed a .276/.335/.385 line. He then went to Atlanta for his age 29 and 30 seasons and resumed his contact-heavy play, going .310/.374/.451.
Carl Crawford, coming off a .307/.356/.495 season in 2010 with Tampa Bay, signed a big contract with the Sox and went .255/.289/.405 in 2011.
It happens. Sometimes players can’t handle a certain city, especially a large, very-critical-of-their-sports-team city like Boston. The change of leagues doesn’t help much either. But it certainly doesn’t mean that their career is over.
Sandoval managed a very dismal .237/.286/.360 line in his three-year, 161-game career as a Red Sox. His lack of performance was most likely due to injuries, relentless criticism that typically accompanies a huge contract and always having to look over his shoulder at his replacement.
Perhaps the Phils could’ve resurrected the former slugger’s career. We are talking about a guy who hit .294/.346/.465 during his first tenure in the NL with the Giants. A fresh start with the Giants, with lower expectations, could prove reinvigorating for him. It’s an non-risky chance the Giants are taking, and it’s a chance the Phils missed.
For Franco’s part, bringing in some serious competition could’ve done him well. As it is Franco has nobody vying for his position anywhere in the upper levels of their system. The Phillies had so much invested in him and thought so highly of him that depth at the postion was pretty much ignored until last year’s draft when they picked up Cole Stobbe in the third round. This was, of course, about the time Franco started to show that he might not be who the Phillies thought he was. He’s done nothing since to change their mind back to thinking he has a bright future here.
And even if Franco continues to be as hot as he’s been lately, Sandoval could’ve slotted in at first when needed and be an extra bat off the bench. He could’ve also played designated hitter in the remaining American League games on the schedule. The Phils could’ve found opportunities for him to play, especially after Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava get traded.
It wouldn’t have cost much, he could’ve provided a bit of veteran leadership and, who knows, maybe he would’ve turned into the player he was the last time he played in the NL.
We’ll see what he does with the Giants (he’s currently hitting 143/.250/.143 in seven at-bats with San Jose), but he could’ve been a nice easy play for the Phils. Oh well.