BOSTON -- Veteran third baseman Pablo Sandoval was never able to generate any momentum with the Red Sox, and his quest to do so came to an abrupt end on Friday, when the club designated him for assignment.
One month after winning a third World Series with the Giants in 2014, Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million contract with the Red Sox. He is owed $48.3 million, $41 million of which is due in 2018 and beyond.
"It was a very difficult decision in some ways. Any time you have a player that has a long-term contract with a lot of dollars involved, that's been a good player, that's a difficult decision," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "You're always hoping that player bounces back and is the player you've seen in the past. That was hard. You're talking about a lot of money. I give ownership a lot of credit. They were willing to allow us to do this."
According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, it will be the second-highest total of money owed in MLB history after Josh Hamilton, who was owed $68.4 million by the Angels after they traded him to the Rangers on April 27, 2015.
"Well, obviously it's a major decision when you consider all that remains with the terms of his deal," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "But I think what it boils down to is pretty simple: Try to put the best team on the field every night, to put ourselves in a position to extend our season from where we stand today into October. Bottom line is Panda's situation just didn't work."
Boston has seven days to either trade Sandoval or release him outright. Even if the Red Sox worked out a trade, they would still be all but certain to be on the hook for the remainder of his salary. If he is released, Sandoval would then be free to sign with any MLB team. Regardless of whether he is released or traded, he will still receive his full salary. If he signs with another club after being released, the signing team would only have to pay him the prorated league minimum, with the Sox covering the rest. Boston asked Sandoval to play at Triple-A Pawtucket for the next week to try to generate some trade value, but the veteran declined.
The departure of Sandoval won't change much for the Red Sox in the short-term. Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin have provided some stability in recent weeks while sharing time at third, and Sandoval had been on the disabled list since June 20 with an inner-ear infection.
Rafael Devers -- who is Boston's No. 1 prospect, and No. 12 in all of baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com -- is the club's third baseman of the future, and he was promoted from Double-A Portland to Pawtucket on Friday. The Red Sox are keeping it open-ended on whether Devers will be given the chance to play in the Majors this season.
Sandoval's struggles with the Red Sox ranged from offense to defense to staying healthy and staying fit.
Sandoval played in just 161 games during his Boston tenure, hitting .237/.286/.360 -- a far cry from what former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, who signed Sandoval, envisioned. Before Sandoval inked his deal, his line with San Francisco was .294/.346/.465 over seven seasons.
In 32 games and 99 at-bats this season, Sandoval had a line of .212/.269/.354 with four homers and 12 RBIs. His defense was also shaky, both for the Red Sox and in multiple Minor League rehab stints.
After trading third basemen Yoan Moncada and Travis Shaw back in December, Sandoval had the opportunity to reclaim his starting position after playing just three games last year due to left shoulder surgery.
Initially, it looked like Sandoval might be able to resurrect his career. He came into camp in much better shape, having lost close to 40 pounds. In Spring Training, Sandoval hit .338 with five homers and a 1.025 OPS.
Sandoval got the Opening Day nod at third base, but his bat went cold as soon as the season started. And on April 23, Sandoval suffered a right knee sprain that forced him to the DL until May 31. Shortly after his return, Sandoval was demoted to a backup.
"I actually felt encouraged in Spring Training, but once the season came, started, we didn't see the same performance, particularly from a defensive perspective," said Dombrowski. "And then every time he would get a chance, it didn't get any better when he was on rehab assignments. I think [the decision] was made easier in the sense that Marrero and Lin made us, in our opinion, a better ballclub."
It has been a steep fall for Sandoval, as he was perhaps the bright spot of Spring Training just a few months ago.
"There was a pretty detailed and very strict plan to get him back into better shape," said Farrell. "He did that. Whether the two years prior that we're referring to was a direct contributor to not regaining the abilities he showed prior to signing here, I don't know; that's probably debatable. Fact is, we tried to get him going multiple times this year when he had some issues where we'd have to send him out physically to get back on track, and unfortunately it just didn't materialize."
Sandoval had been on a Minor League rebab assignment with Pawtucket since June 27. Sandoval's rehab assignment was set to expire on Sunday, but the Red Sox decided not to wait until the deadline to decide his fate with the organization.
Brock Holt should also provide some help at the hot corner when he is activated from the DL in the coming days. Holt has been out since April 21, and he has the versatility to play seven positions, including third base.
Dombrowski could also try to acquire a third baseman by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but it would likely be for a player who is nearing the end of his contract.
"We're comfortable with what we have at this point, but I also say that you're always open-minded to getting better," said Dombrowski.