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Pablo Sandoval earned every penny

Major League Baseball is set up to exploit players when they’re young, and have earned every penny they get in free agency, even if the deal is a bust.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

They can’t all be winners, you know? Sometimes you sign a guy and it just doesn’t work out. That’s what happened with the Red Sox, who signed former All Star Pablo Sandoval to a five year, $95 million contract prior to the 2015 season. It was, as we now know, an awful decision.

Sandoval showed up out of shape and hurt and hit just .245/.292/.366 in his first full season. He only played three games in 2016, and was just designated for assignment by the Sox while on the disabled list. No one is going to claim him and the Sox are likely to eat the $48 million or so that Sandoval is still owed on his deal.

That doesn’t sit well with everyone. Take, for instance, Boston Sports Lunk Tony Massarotti, who tweeted:

This is, of course, ridiculous. It’s sour grapes from someone who has no problem with the Red Sox paying Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Eduardo Rodriguez a combined $2.1 million. It’s anger-fueled sports radio dumbassery.

Major League Baseball’s salary system is designed to keep these youngsters cheap so that, supposedly, teams have an incentive to draft and develop young talent, and to keep them close. It’s why prospects are so damn valuable, and everyone is making a big deal about the White Sox acquiring every talented youngster ever, and the Astros going scorched earth on their organization a few years back. The Chicago’s future is bright not just because these young talent, but because they get to pay that young talent so appallingly little compared to what their skills would command on the open market.

It’s when these players are finally free to generate a market for themselves and sign someplace that will pay them whatever that going rate is that they begin to be paid something like a fair wage. But, of course, some of these deals don’t work out. In the case of Sandoval, years of poor conditioning and injuries sustained when he was young and cheap ended his productiveness, thankfully for him, just after he signed his big contract. Was it laziness or time that destroyed Sandoval’s value? I’m sure you have an opinion, but we’ll never know for certain.

But that’s the risk teams run because of their system. If Major League Baseball teams don’t want to pay that price…well, they better find a way to play youngsters a hell of a lot more than they’re doing right now. They have to give the players something for their years of indentured servitude, or that servitude is not worth it. The price is the guaranteed contract and the occasional disastrous deal. Bad decisions have to have bad consequences. You have to live with your choices. The Sox made the trade for Allen Craig and decided to sign Rusney Castillo as well of their own free will. Giving them a free pass to get out of those decisions isn’t fair to the rest of the clubs in baseball who made better decisions either.

Meanwhile, as bad as Sandoval’s contract was, it’s not like it was significantly holding Boston back. While they struggled in 2015, the Sox won 93 games last season and have the second best record in the American League this year. The Sox, by virtue of their large and voracious fan base, are still going to turn a healthy profit, even with all the money they’re flushing down the drain.

Look, we all wanted to see Pablo Sandoval do well in a Red Sox uniform. He was a unique and fun player when he still had bat speed and mobility. The Sox should have seen this coming and passed, but they didn’t. And now they have to pay. You may not like it, but it’s what’s fair. And if his on-air character had an ounce of compassion or insight behind his sports radio bluster, Tony Massarotti would see that too.