It's actually kind of funny to think that, going into Spring Training, Hanley Ramirez was labeled as the biggest problem the Sox may need to address. As everyone knows, obviously, Hanley worked hard all spring, dropped some lbs and got back to hitting the way he did at the peak of his success back with the Marlins; while Pablo Sandoval was on the complete other side, showing up severely overweight and lying to the media that the Sox didn't tell him to lose weight.
It's also funny to think that Panda actually broke more belts this year than he had hits (0-6 with 1 broken belt).
These health issues led to Sandoval needing surgery on his shoulder in April to repair a torn labrum, costing him the remainder of the 2016 season, and year 2 of his 5-year deal.
But here is why it would be stupid to completely write off Pablo Sandoval. For starters, in his time spent away from the team in 2016, Sandoval worked hard and was able to drop 22 pounds from April until September, looking like a completely different man when he reported back to the Sox in early September. Second, one would HAVE to think that he isn't just going to balloon back up over the winter. What is the point of losing weight if you're just going to eat your way back to a blimp? That's not how it works. I expect Sandoval to continue his training and weight loss and come back next spring in even better shape.
Now aside from how he looks physically, here is why they shouldn't let go of the player.
1. Travis Shaw's lack of production
Travis Shaw got off to a white-hot start to the 2016 season, but was virtually non-existent from June-October. Shaw finished 2016 hitting .242 with 16 homers and 71 RBI; now I understand that isn't bad, but when you factor in the fact that he hit .194 in the second half and lost his job to a platoon of Aaron Hill, Brock Holt, and Yoan Moncada, those numbers look better than they really are. Shaw also only had 15 extra-base hits in his final 59 games, and a fielding percentage of .945 (Sandoval had a .949 in 2015).
So the Red Sox proved that they can win without a ton of production out of the third base position; but let's just say Sandoval has a year where he puts up his averages for his career, .287 average with 19 home runs and 83 RBI. Imagine how much better the Sox become with him.
On top of the lack of production from Shaw comes Sandoval's success in October. In his career, Sandoval is a .344 hitter with 6 homers and 20 RBI in 39 postseason games, while slugging north of .500. A player that can produce on the big stage is something the Red Sox need to, 1.) replace Big Papi, and 2.) want to make it out of the first round in 2016. Panda also, like Papi, has a World Series MVP on his resume for his output in the 2012 World Series vs. Detroit when he played for the Giants.
3. Hanley Ramirez' turnaround
After 2015, Sox Nation was ready to get rid of Hanley Ramirez following a year in which he hit .249 with 19 homers and 53 RBI, to go on top of a hot mess in left field. But Hanley worked his ass off in the 2015-16 offseason and it showed in 2016 when he posted a .286 average with 30 homers and 111 RBI, and a great defensive year at first base. And what was the issue we all thought with Hanley after 2015? That he didn't care. We thought the same thing with Sandoval and, wataya know? He drops 22 pounds in 5 months. I don't expect gaudy numbers from Panda, but it would be unfair to not give him every opportunity to win his job back. He's still a professional and, whether Sox fans want to believe it or not, he's still a damn good player.