Pablo Sandoval was probably pretty disappointed when he found out he was going to need season-ending shoulder surgery. Nobody wants to be told they’re done for the year when it’s only just begun. If there’s a silver lining, however, it’s that surgery could save Sandoval’s career.
Let’s face it; 2016 was shaping up to be another lost season for Boston’s maligned third baseman. Coming off the worst year of his career, he arrived at spring training overweight (again), failed to bat said weight and wound up losing his starting job to a player making $17 million less than him. Sandoval rode the pine in April, appearing in just three games as Shaw and the Red Sox got off to torrid starts.
Sandoval was stuck. His team had little use for him while his contract and recent performance made him untradeable. So he wasted away on the bench, watching Shaw’s success systematically destroy whatever shot he had at redemption in 2016.
Now, with Sandoval out for the rest of the year, he’ll have to wait until 2017 to get back in Boston’s good graces. That gives him loads of time to get in the best shape of his life and prove he’s serious about his conditioning. It also gives him time to fix whatever broke in his swing last year and work on his defense.
Sandoval has nothing but time. The question is: will he use it effectively?
Surgery Could Save Sandoval’s Career, or Finish it
A year off could do Sandoval wonders. It certainly did for John Lackey, another West Coast star who initially struggled upon signing a big contract with the Red Sox. After pitching at a historically awful level in 2011, Lackey missed all of ’12 recovering from Tommy John surgery. It was a turning point in his career, as a slimmed-down Lackey returned to form in 2013 and is still going strong as he enters his late 30s.
Surgery could save Sandoval’s career, too..It’s not hard to imagine him having a similar renaissance next year, given that he’ll only be 30. He’ll also be extra motivated to win his job back after everything that’s happened this spring.
On the other hand, going under the knife may only hasten Sandoval’s decline. Adrian Gonzalez fell off significantly as a hitter following the same procedure, which doesn’t bode well for Sandoval. He may also find that taking a whole year off severely disrupts his timing, which could prevent him from having the kind of start he needs to secure regular playing time again.
How the rest of Sandoval’s career plays out will likely be decided by what he does over the next calendar year. If he buckles down and sheds some pounds, he may yet find his way back into Boston’s lineup. But if he sits around and lets his skills continue to erode, he better get used to watching Travis Shaw at the hot corner.