What Should the Red Sox Pay for Pablo Sandoval?

As you know by now, Pablo Sandoval is in Boston, and everyone is saying that the Red Sox really, really want him as the 3rd baseman for the 2015 squad.  As you probably also know, free agency prices in the MLB are skyrocketing by the day, as evidenced by 31 year old Russell Martin getting $82 million over 5 years.

For whatever reason, there have been 2 different price points in my mind since the World Series.  The 1st is 5 years, $110 million, or $22M per year.  The 2nd is 7 years, $122.5 million, or $17.5M per year.  Those seem like the two benchmarks to use in their respective number of years.

I’d sign Sandoval to both of those deals, but it’s clear to me that the better option of the two would be the 5 year deal.  In just about any sport, but especially baseball, which doesn’t have any stipulations on contracts, the years are usually what the teams end up regretting, rather than the dollars.  If the Yankees had signed A-Rod to a 5 year, $137.5 million deal instead of 10 years, $275 million — even if they would have had to boost the dollars significantly on the shorter deal in order to make it more realistic — they would have gotten a guy who was still averaging more than 4 WAR in those 5 years.  But in the last 5 years of the deal, they’re getting an injury plagued 2013, suspended 2014, and who the hell knows in 2015, 16, and 17.  Same thing with Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeria, and so many others.

So where exactly is the piece of hay that breaks the camel’s back?  (This is operating under the assumption that the Sox are budgeting themselves similarly to how the did last year, so we can’t just use the common sense response of, “They print money.  They can pay him whatever they want.”  Where is the magic dollar amount that the Red Sox should adopt the Bill Belichick mindset of “That’s one penny more than we’re willing to pay, so the answer’s no.”?

On the free agent market, each WAR is about $6 million right now, but over the length of a long term deal like Sandoval’s, that number will probably rise to an average of about $7 or $7.5M over the life of a contract.  An average player is worth about 2 WAR, and Sandoval should be worth an average of about 3 or 3.5 per year for the next few years.  This should tell you 2 things.  First, an average MLB player is worth $12 or $13 million right now.  Sports are beginning to run the world.  Second, Pablo Sandoval should be worth this kind of money, especially because you do have to give him some bonus points for how he steps up in the postseason.

For 4 years, I’d pay him $25 million per year.  An even nine figure salary for Sandoval if he takes that short of a deal.  Not a penny more.  For 5, I’d pay him $23 a year, or $115.  For 6 years, $20.5 per.  For 7, $17.5 per.  I wouldn’t go beyond the original number I laid out for 7 years, just because that’s soooo long for a 28 year old who is only 5-11 yet weighs 245.  For reference, Zdeno Chara, who admittedly plays a sport that shreds body fat way more than baseball, is 6-9 and about 260.

The focus has to be on cutting the years.  If the Sox can’t do that, then at least protect themselves by having a vesting option in the final year or 2 of the deal so that they aren’t stuck paying over $20 million for nothing.

But here’s what no one can deny: Pablo Sandoval would be a huge acquisition for the Boston Red Sox.  I’m rooting for it to happen, and no matter what the terms are, my reaction will be complete happiness if and when they sign him.  And that should be your reaction, too.

 

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