Red Sox: Dave Dombrowski reveals expectations for Pablo Sandoval

Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski expects a bounce-back campaign from maligned third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

If Instagram photos were a contributing factor in the Comeback Player of the Year award then Pablo Sandoval would be an early front runner. Sadly, that’s not how it works, yet Dave Dombrowski still believes his third baseman can return to form following two massively disappointing seasons with the Boston Red Sox.

Sandoval fell well short of expectations in his debut season in Boston after signing a 5-year, $95 million contract prior to the 2015 season. Last year he followed that up by showing up to spring training out of shape, which resulted in the veteran losing his starting spot to Travis Shaw. Sandoval appeared in only three games before being shut down with a season-ending shoulder injury.

With Shaw now in Milwaukee and Yoan Moncada – once believed to be the future at the position – dealt to Chicago, there is little standing in the way of Sandoval reclaiming the starting job.

Despite what has essentially been a pair of lost seasons in Boston, Dombrowski still believes that Sandoval is capable of contributing. On ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” podcast with Buster Olney, Dombroski explained his expectations for Sandoval in 2017.

“I think he can come back and be a good, dependable, everyday third baseman for us, from an offensive and defensive perspective,” said Dombrowski. “I think if he can go out there and hit .270 to .275 and hit 12 to 15 home runs and knock in 70 to 75 runs at third base for us, I don’t think that’s asking too much of him. He’s done those types of things in the past.”

Is Dombrowski being overly optimistic out of necessity, knowing the Red Sox have few reliable backup plans in the event that Sandoval falls flat once again? Perhaps, but he’s not wrong when he says that Sandoval is capable of that type of performance. The numbers he outlined are in line with what he produced in his last few years with the San Francisco Giants.

It’s not as if anyone is expecting Sandoval to regain the form that once made him a two-time All-Star. The Red Sox aren’t relying on Sandoval to carry the team, they just need him to be solid. He has to hit enough to avoid being a liability in the lineup and can’t be a sieve at third base. That actually sounds fairly reasonable.

If you’re looking for any sliver of optimism, all eyewitness reports seem to confirm that Sandoval has lost a significant amount of weight. Reset assured, those photos floating around social media apparently haven’t been photo-shopped!

“He’s worked very hard this winter,” Dombrowski added. “I think he’s driven to show that he is still a real solid major league player.”

Sure, there’s reason to be concerned that he won’t be able to keep the weight off, or his motivation will begin to tank once the season gets rolling. We’ve seen it before, but at least there are positive signs heading into spring training, which is an upgrade over last year.

Sandoval has a lot to prove entering this season, but don’t expect him to live up to his contract. We’re past the point of believing he’ll ever meet that value. Let’s be satisfied if he can prove to be a capable everyday player again that produces enough at the plate and in the field to help the team more than he hurts. Based on Dombrowski’s projections, that’s about all he’s hoping for.

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