Following the rejection of a $15.3M qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants, three time World Series champion Pablo Sandoval has entered free agency. It didn’t take long after hitting the open market for the third baseman to state his demands, either:
Rejecting the Giants’ qualifying offer wasn’t a difficult decision for Sandoval. The third baseman should have no trouble securing a multi-year contract with similar salary, and can still re-sign with Giants if he pleases. If he signs elsewhere, San Francisco will receive draft pick compensation.
Which one of the “few teams interested” will be the first to meet with Sandoval? The Boston Red Sox. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe confirmed:
"The Red Sox have already made contact with Pablo Sandoval’s representatives, and a face-to-face meeting will take place at the general managers meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., next week, according to a major league source."
The Red Sox are front runners for Sandoval because, well, it just makes sense. 2014 became the second consecutive disappointing season for current Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. While the front office remains patient in the development of inconsistent and injury prone Middlebrooks, Sandoval and free agent Chase Headley are worth considering to pick up the slack at the hot corner. Garin Cecchini and Brock Holt are still in the mix, even though the versatility of Holt is more valuable elsewhere in the diamond.
Panda is no stranger to literally “stepping up to the plate” with a career .294/.346/.465 and batting .426 in World Series play. In overall postseason action he holds a .344 batting average and .935 OPS.
The Sox have $50M in flexible payroll to work with, and a switch-hitting third baseman should be a high priority. Sandoval is young, but his weight has always been a lingering concern. Mike Napoli will become eligible for free agency in 2015 and David Ortiz is nearing the end of his career, there is always the possibility of Sandoval shifting to first or taking on the role of designated hitter in the coming years.
The Red Sox and Giants are currently the two most interested teams in Panda and more clubs are sure to throw their hat into the ring. Wherever Sandoval ends up is sure to be at least a 5 year deal.