In 2016, the offense for the Boston Red Sox had very few spots up and down the order that were weak. However, one of those spots happened to be third base.
During the 2016 season, third basemen for the Red Sox combined to have a batting average of only .242 while the average third baseman in the major leagues hit for an average of .266. That deficit in production adds up through the course of a 162-game season.
It appeared that Travis Shaw would be the stabilizing force at third, but he became exposed at the plate over the course of the season. Yoan Moncada a top prospect for third is likely the answer over the long term, but he will likely need more time to develop.
That in turn brings back to mind veteran Pablo Sandoval. Prior to the 2015 regular season, Boston signed the veteran to a $95 million 5-year deal. Sandoval then experienced his worst numbers offensively for his career in 2015 while struggling as well in the field.
In 2016, Sandoval played only three games prior to injuring his left shoulder, which eventually would require surgery that ended his season.
Given the struggles, Sandoval has had when healthy and with his conditioning, some might think his spot on the roster would have him on the bench or even possibly appearing on the waiver wire.
Nevertheless, it appears Sandoval could get a shot at redeeming himself in the eyes of the front office and coaches.
Dave Dombrowski the Boston President of baseball operations said the Red Sox were monitoring the condition of Sandoval closely and believe he will be able to play when spring training arrives in February.
Sandoval requested an opportunity to play in the winter leagues, and both Dombrowski and John Farrell the Red Sox manager are committed to that. However, if he cannot secure the job, a number of candidates will be ready to relieve him.
Even though he has not produced in Boston, he was very productive in a San Francisco Giants uniform.
He does have problems with his weigh, but will be just 30 to start the season. He is a switch hitter with more power from the right side and that helps at Fenway.
If Sandoval can be healthy and newly committed to keeping himself in better shape the possibility, remains he could become an important regular during the 2017 season and it appears Boston is betting on just that.