With Travis Shaw poised to claim the starting third base job in Boston and San Diego in need of a third baseman, Pablo Sandoval’s name has again surfaced in a potential Red Sox-Padres swap that also includes veteran right-hander James Shields.
According to Boston Globe reporter Nick Cafardo, the Padres dispatched a scout who is monitoring Sandoval at Boston’s spring training home in Ft. Myers.
The 29-year-old Sandoval batted .245 with a .292 OBP in a disappointing 2015 campaign with the Red Sox, his first season with the club. He is still owed $77.4 million and struggles against left-handed pitchers. And there is the hefty weight issue that has already contributed to back stiffness this spring.
The Padres, who diligently pursued Sandoval when he was a free agent after his role in helping the San Francisco Giants win the 2014 World Series, have Yangervis Solarte as their starting third baseman and could benefit from an upgrade. They might be willing to bank on Sandoval regaining his hitting stroke by returning to the west coast.
To facilitate the deal, Boston would need to take on Shields’ remaining three years and $65 million (which does not include a $16 million team option for 2019 or a $2 million buyout. A Sandoval-for-Shields trade would also likely include the Red Sox sending money to pay for Sandoval’s remaining deal, and shipping a prospect (that would probably not include any of their premium names like Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi or Anderson Espinoza).
The 25-year-old Shaw – who slugged 13 home runs and produced a .813 OPS in 248 plate appearances and 65 games last season as a rookie – owns a .353 average and .949 OPS this spring. Considering that 22-year-old left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will open the regular season on the disabled list while recovering from a dislocated knee, the Red Sox might be contemplating the addition of another frontline arm to join ace David Price; and Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly. Knuckleballer Steven Wright is favored to occupy the No. 5 spot in the rotation if a trade is not made.
The 34-year-old Shields has logged 2,112.2 innings over 10 Major League seasons with Tampa Bay, Kansas City and San Diego. He has topped the 200-inning mark in nine consecutive years, including 202.1 in 2015, his first season with the Padres. It was a forgettable campaign for Shields, who posted a 3.91 ERA while serving up a Major League-leading 33 home runs. He also struggled with control, walking 81 in those 202.1 frames after allowing 47 free passes the year before over 227 innings.
Shields did win 13 games and permit just 189 hits for the Padres last year, and he is a proven competitor in the tough American League East from his tenure with the Rays. With Buchholz’s history of injuries, Porcello attempting to rebound from a woeful first season in Boston, Kelly never producing more than 134.1 innings in a full season and Rodriguez preparing to begin his first full season in the majors (when he returns from the knee injury), the Red Sox could use a durable arm.
If Shaw wins the starting third base job and Sandoval is traded, super utility man Brock Holt would serve as hot corner insurance for Boston.