This is not to denigrate newly crowned Red Sox opening day third baseman Travis Shaw, because Travis Shaw has had a killer spring, and no one’s really quite sure what to make of him. But teams usually need more than a hint of promise to bench a guy owed $72.4 million over the next four years. Not the Sox.
Sandoval had a rough 2015, the first year of his big five-year contract with Boston, and it wasn’t just the disappointing year at the plate. (Though swinging at balls above his eyes didn’t help.) He had the requisite amount of weirdness—getting dizzy running the bases, Instagramming from the bathroom during a game, that sort of thing. Showing up to spring training with a sizable belly didn’t help. Claiming no one had told him to lose weight, after his manager and GM had publicly said otherwise, got things started on a very wrong foot.
But Sandoval had an OK spring, hitting .244/.279/.488 in 41 at-bats, limited by a bad back. It looked like it would be enough, even amid whispers that the Red Sox wanted to find work for Shaw, who can play at the corners and potentially in left field. But Brock Holt earned the LF job (in a partial platoon) and Hanley Ramirez has successfully made the transition to 1B. Unless Farrell wanted to keep Shaw on the bench, that left third.
It’s hard to know what to make of Shaw. At first glance, a guy turning 26 in two weeks who put up a .674 OPS at Pawtucket last season is not traditionally a candidate to break out. But the Red Sox really liked what they saw after calling Shaw up for good in August, and he hit a little better than he had at Triple-A. He has raked this spring, to the tune of an .886 OPS, and offers superior defense. His projections for 2016 are in disaccord—playing time was and is a big question—but they range from average to slightly-above-average. It’s highly possible Sandoval just lost his job to a literal replacement-level player. Of course, that’d still be a big step up from what Sandoval gave Boston last year.