Boston Red Sox five biggest player busts from 2010-2019
By Mike Towle
Omigosh, where do we start when it comes to Panda? What in the world was Ben Cherington thinking when, prior to the 2015 season, he signed free agent Pablo Sandoval to a five-year deal for $95 million that included a buyout option in Year Six for $5 million?
Guess what? The Red Sox are still paying Sandoval – that $5 million is attached and counts toward the 2020 taxable payroll, even though he was released by the Red Sox in July 2017. Panda is the gift that keeps on taking, and, apparently, eating.
With Sandoval’s arrival in Fort Myers, you could see trouble coming from a mile away. That’s because you could practically see Sandoval coming from a mile away, he was that big. At 5-11 and a reported 268 pounds (by all appearances a lowball), Sandoval reported to the Red Sox out of shape and, as we would eventually learn, out of sorts with his former club, the San Francisco Giants.
OK, in a be-kind world it’s not nice to poke fun at overweight folks, but consider this: Sandoval was obese while competing in a professional sport at the highest level, where players get millions of dollars a year to stay in shape so they can perform with excellence on the field.
Sandoval did neither.
Save for a few postseason heroics with the Giants that inflated his reputation, there had been nothing truly remarkable about Sandoval’s first seven seasons, aside from his first rookie year in 2009 when he hit 25 home runs, drove in 90 and slashed a .330/.387/.556/.943 line that helped place him seventh in National League MVP voting. He had a somewhat comparable 2011 season, but other than that, nothing to warrant getting $18 million a year from the Red Sox.
Sandoval’s first and, as it turned out, only full season in Boston in 2015 wasn’t good. He hit only 10 homers in 505 at-bats and slashed .245/.292/.366/.658. After reporting to spring training badly overweight in 2016, he missed all but three games due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder that required season-ending surgery. Despite playing just three games, it was enough for him to reach a new low, squeezing in an at-bat in which he famously busted his belt while swinging at a pitch.
In 2017, Sandoval returned long enough to play 32 games, hit .212 and slug .354 before the Red Sox finally realized it was better to pay him not to play for them, releasing him on July 19, 2017 – three days before he resigned as a free agent with the Giants, still being paid more than 90 percent of his salary by the Red Sox.