The long wait is finally over. Early this morning, the Boston Red Sox designated third baseman Pablo Sandoval for assignment. Sandoval contributed little in his short, yet far too long, tenure in Boston. Most of the time, he was either out of shape, out with an injury, or both. It seemed, to fans in the media, that he never felt any urgency or need to get in shape, though he did trim down before the start of this season, or to find ways to improve his game. His presence also limited the Red Sox third base options, as his contract and spot on the roster made it necessary to try to play him if possible.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 14, 2017
Red Sox Third Base Options Post-Sandoval
Sandoval finished his time with the Red Sox as, statistically, the worst third baseman to ever wear the uniform. While the Red Sox will have to eat the remainder of his enormous contract, in the end the roster spot Sandoval occupied proved more valuable than the player.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 14, 2017
Pablo Sandoval is the worst third baseman in Red Sox history, minimum 150 games. Fails eye test AND stat test. pic.twitter.com/FU8GgSlyDo
— High Heat Stats 📎 (@HighHeatStats) June 20, 2017
The Panda began the season as the Sox starting third baseman. With him now out of the picture, the Red Sox third base options have come into focus.
Fill the Hole via Trade
This is the less likely of the two choices, but it should still be explored. The third base market this season is thin, but there is one name the Red Sox have been linked to all season: Todd Frazier, of the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox are in the midst of a massive rebuild, and are stockpiling prospects by moving veterans. It’s all but a foregone conclusion that Frazier will be moved by the deadline. The Red Sox and White Sox previously worked out a massive trade, which brought Chris Sale to Boston. Though that trade so far looks like a win for both sides, the Red Sox should decline to double-dip in that particular bowl of guacamole.
While Frazier has legitimate power and is a slightly-above-average fielder, the man just is not a good hitter overall. He hasn’t hit higher than .255 in any of the past three seasons, including this one. Last year, he finished with a dreadful .225 batting average, and is currently batting a meager .213. For a player with as much power as he has, his OPS is alarmingly low (.766 last year; .779 this season). He strikes out far too often and simply does not get on base enough to justify the package it would take to acquire him. The Red Sox should avoid replacing one expensive, risky player with another.
Another player the Red Sox could look at is Josh Harrison, of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Harrison is young and talented, but the Pirates probably won’t give him up easily, if at all. Pittsburgh is an up-and-coming team, and Harrison is controllable and inexpensive. They’ll hold on to him for a while. Harrison would also block the guy who is likely Pablo’s true successor at the hot corner.
Instead, the Red Sox should replace Sandoval with top prospect Rafael Devers. Mere moments after dumping the Panda, Boston promoted Devers from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket. That’s no coincidence. If he gets off to a hot start, he’ll probably be in Boston by this time next month.
Sox prospect Rafael Devers has been promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, per source. @EvanDrellich had it first.
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) July 14, 2017
Devers had been tearing the cover off the ball in Double-A. He owned a .300/.369/.575 slash line, with 19 doubles and 18 home runs in 77 games this season. He has made 12 errors in the field, but his .930 fielding percentage isn’t bad at all. A promotion to Boston was always just a matter of time, but with Sandoval out of the picture, that time will come sooner, rather than later. There is some risk in promoting a rookie close to the playoffs, but it worked out fine when the Red Sox did that with Xander Bogaerts. Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts also earned quick promotions, and adjusted well to the bigs. That doesn’t necessarily mean Devers would have the same smooth transition, but the precedent is there.
In the meantime, the Red Sox will probably be more than happy to stick with the platoon of Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrero at third. The duo has performed admirably since Lin’s call-up. Marrero plays rock-solid defense, and Lin has sparked the offense on several occasions. Marrero, who’s production was anemic before the platoon formed, has been hitting much better of late. If Devers takes longer to adjust than the Sox hope, Lin and Marrero could be an effective, if ultimately temporary, solution for the remainder of the season. While they could also trade for Frazier and then bench him once Devers is ready, that would seem wasteful.