Boston Red Sox owner John Henry says team needs Pablo Sandoval in 2017

Sep 11, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Pablo Sandoval has been labeled a bust ever since the Boston Red Sox signed him, but owner John Henry expects they will need him next year.

Does Pablo Sandoval have a future with the Boston Red Sox?

The veteran third baseman has already been ruled out for the rest of this season after undergoing shoulder surgery in May, but most Red Sox fans gave up on Sandoval long before he went under the knife. The man they call Kung Fu Panda had a horrific debut season in Boston last year after signing a 5-year, $95 million deal with the Red Sox, leaving fans bearish on his value to the franchise.

When Sandoval showed up to spring training out of shape, that seemed to be the last straw. His starting spot at third base was taken from him by Travis Shaw long before his injured shoulder came into play, casting doubt on the role he would fit into on this team. He was beginning to look like a sunk cost, but there is at least one person that still believes that Sandoval can make a positive contribution to this team – the man that signs his paychecks.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry recently conducted a Q & A session via email with the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman, where he was asked about Sandoval’s future with the team.

"“Pablo is a supremely talented veteran and a proven winner,” said Henry. “He knows exactly what he needs at this point in his career. With Papi leaving we absolutely need Pablo to return to the form we’ve seen in the past. This year and last were frustrating for him and frustrating for us. We need him next year.”"

Henry isn’t delusional enough to expect Sandoval to fill the massive void left by the retirement of David Ortiz. There are few players in baseball that can put up the type of numbers that Big Papi is producing in his final season, so it’s unlikely they can replace him with one bat. It’s going to take a collaborative effort, one that Henry hopes Sandoval can contribute to.

More from Red Sox News

Most fans that have already given up on the idea of Sandoval being a useful part of this roster would prefer the team move on. Then again, it’s not our money being spent, nor would it be up to any of us to eat the remaining three years on his contract. That’s a tough pill to swallow, even for someone as wealthy as Henry. Naturally he’s still holding out hope that some of his value can be restored before they resort to cutting bait.

Perhaps the idea that Sandoval can return to being a player that somewhat resembles his former All-Star form isn’t that far fetched. Henry points to the example of Hanley Ramirez as evidence that a player fans were ready to write off can bounce back. The disastrous attempt to convert him into a left fielder combined with numerous injuries spoiled Ramirez’s first season back in Boston, putting him right next to Sandoval on the bust list. A move to first base and improved health have helped Han-Ram’s revival this year. He’s still a far cry from the superstar the Red Sox hoped they were getting, hitting .280 with 16 home runs and a 1.5 WAR this year. Not worth his salary, but not too shabby either and certainly light years ahead of the negative value he provided a year ago.

If Sandoval were to stay healthy, motivated and get back in decent shape, could he have a similar bounce back campaign in 2017? That’s a lot of “ifs” to count on, but it’s feasible.

What’s the alternative? The Red Sox need to replace Ortiz somehow. They could venture into the free agent market to sign a slugger like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista or Mark Trumbo. How well have the other recent free agent signings this team has made panned out? You can understand why Henry would be eager to try to salvage some value out of Sandoval before shelling out another lucrative contract for an aging slugger that might be the next free agent bust.

Next: Four prospects that need to be moved

Most fans will agree that the Red Sox can do better than handing Sandoval a roster spot next year, but Henry isn’t ready to agree yet. Unless Dave Dombrowski can find a team willing to take him off their hands, the decision to release him ultimately falls on Henry, since it’s his money being spent if they eat the rest of the contract. That means Sandoval is likely to get another shot next year, whether we like it or not.