Some may say it is too early to make a choice. However, how many opportunities can you give? And how long does John Farrell have to make the correct coaching decision? Pablo Sandoval has been the storyline since the day he walked into spring training. At first, the uproar coming from Red Sox Nation was about his waistline. Now the headline is whether or not he is deserving of starting at the hot corner come opening day.
Meanwhile, fans and the media are witnessing the type of spring Travis Shaw is having. He possesses a .474 AVG, .500 OBP, with an OPS of 1.237 to go along with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs. John Farrell would be praised by Red Sox Nation to name Travis Shaw the opening day starter while telling Sandoval to go find his favorite spot in the dugout and get comfortable. Pablo would be a rather expensive bench player, however it’s not like Shaw is costing us much at all, he is an inexpensive insurance policy that offsets the high cost of a potential benched Sandoval.
Travis Shaw has proven to be a better defensive player and even become a better hitter over the course of this spring and last season. Not only would the decision help the Red Sox get off to a more promising start to a long season, but it would also send a message to all the big contract players; no one is guaranteed anything. In addition, it would serve as a great scare tactic that should make all of the other players surrounded by question marks work that much harder.
However, John Farrell has much more to think about than what seems to be a clear-cut answer. Sandoval has four more years left on his contract with at least $75 million coming his way. By benching him, it could be detrimental to his ego. If he is unconfident during his remaining contract years (four years), it could be a nightmare.
The biggest question Farrell would need to contemplate is if he benches Sandoval, in what situation can he realistically be used? He understandably would not be a pinch runner candidate or be looked at to act as a defensive replacement. The only thing I can see him being used off the bench for is pinch-hitting against a right-handed pitcher.
If John Farrell had job security this would not be such a pressing question, as there is room for waiting things out and experimenting. However, after two last-place finishes in Boston, Farrell is hanging on by a thread. He needs wins, and he needs them right out of the gate. For now, maybe the best thing is to keep Sandoval as the starter and mixing in Shaw a few times a week at third, and then maybe a couple times in left to keep giving him offensive reps. Until Shaw has clearly proven he deserves third more than Sandoval, during the regular season, Farrell needs to be conservative for his own sake. Any failing decision he makes can be dire for his tenure.