There were no hard feelings or expressions of disrespect coming from Pablo Sandoval Tuesday at his introductory news conference inside the State Street Pavilion at Fenway Park. The reason the free agent third baseman said he chose Boston was a simple one.
“I want a new challenge,” said Sandoval. “I made that choice to be here in Boston because I need a new challenge. The legacy they have here. To show them the fan support they have here. That’s what I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. It took me a long time but I’m happy to show the fans all the support they gave to this team. Now I want to show I came here to give them the support to go into the postseason again.”
Of course, the Red Sox did make it worth his while financially. As Alex Speier reported, Sandoval, with the help of his brother and agent Michael, agreed to a $95 million deal with a breakdown as follows: $3 million signing bonus and $17 million in 2015-17; in 2018 and 2019 he earns $18 million. Cherington confirmed Tuesday that there is also a club option for 2020, believed to be worth $17 million in 2020 with a $5 million buyout. The Giants offered a similar package in terms of dollars, and a sixth year.
But there were reports Monday night that Sandoval left San Francisco because he was disrespected by the offer from the Giants and their concern over his weight. Sandoval denied those Tuesday.
‘It was a tough decision for me,’ Sandoval said. ‘It took me a long time to be sure that I was going to make the right decision. This is similar, but the Giants gave me the opportunity to be in the big leagues. Opened the door, teach me how to respect the game. The Giants fans, one of the best, but in that time I want to close the cycle that I got there.
Pablo Sandoval has arrived in Boston.”
The 28-year-old Sandoval has only known the National League Giants as his home in his first seven big league seasons, winning World Series in three of the last five seasons, 2010, 2012, and 2014. The Giants showed their appreciation in a statement Monday.
“He has been with us through some of the greatest moments in San Francisco Giants history — including all three World Series championships. We will never forget his World Series MVP performance in 2012 and his numerous contributions to the 2014 championship. His connection with Giants fans — young and old — is truly special, and he will be greatly missed. We wish him nothing but the best in Boston.”
Indeed, last season, Sandoval hit .279 with 26 doubles, three triples,16 home runs, and 73 RBI in a career-high 157 regular season games and 153 starts. But Sandoval really turned it on in the postseason. He batted .366 with seven doubles, five RBI, and five walks in 17 postseason games, collecting an MLB record 26 hits in the postseason run.
Now in Boston, Sandoval will try to help the Red Sox resolve their third base woes. With Will Middlebrooks showing inconsistency and Xander Bogaerts entrenched at short, general manager Ben Cherington has been looking for the right fit at third base. He thinks he has the perfect XL fit in the big Panda.
‘We believe he fits the ballpark well,” Cherington said Tuesday. “He’s a line drive hitter who puts the ball in play a lot, hits a lot of balls hard to left and left center. There’s a lot about it that appealed to us.
“Third base, has been a position we’ve been trying to figure out now for a couple of years. We had some talented players that I’ve been involved in at third base that we’ve given opportunities, but this is an opportunity to add just a really good player, a great person, and a great fit for our team in a position of need.”
Against right-handed pitching, the switch-hitting Venezuelan native is a career .304 batter, with an on-base of .357 and a slugging percentage of .493. Sandoval thinks he can take advantage of Fenway Park, like his good friend David Ortiz.
“I live for that so bad,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy this ballpark. It was one of the things I was thinking about in my decision.”
As for his larger-than-average girth, Sandoval said he doesn’t take offense to people wondering about his playing shape, promising to work with Red Sox personnel to make sure he’s ready for Fort Myers come February.
“I don’t take it personally,” Sandoval said. “I just take advice given to me. They want me to be a better player, they want me to show I can be a better player for them, so I learned a lot of things from that. So, now in my new organization I’m going to show that I can do those things, that I’m mature, and I’m grown enough for those challenges.”
“I want to be ready. That’s why I have my training. I want to work on those things, be ready out there, play third base for five years, six years, and I’m going to be out there and making sure I’m taking care of all those things to play third base.”
As for his famous Kung Fu Panda nickname?
“Ben didn’t sign one guy,” Sandoval said with a glowing smile. “It was a two-part deal. Me and the Panda.”