Blue Jays dodged a bullet with the Panda in 2014

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 02: Pablo Sandoval
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 02: Pablo Sandoval /

Pablo Sandoval was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Thursday, likely putting a premature end to his tenure in Boston. He signed a five year, 95 million dollar deal back in November of 2014, and for those who’ve forgotten, the Blue Jays were reportedly in the mix at the time.

The Blue Jays’ roster is largely built on homegrown talent, and pieces brought in by trade. However, there are a few who came via free agency, such as Russell Martin and Joe Smith, or returnees like Jose Bautista and J.A. Happ.

It’s been interesting to watch who the Blue Jays have reportedly pursued over the last few years, with players like Dexter Fowler from this past offseason being a good example. They’ve often been accused of being bargain hunters, but they spent big to bring in Martin back in the 2014 offseason, an investment that has paid off in a number of ways.

Many fans have called for ownership to spend even more on the roster, but in many cases throwing money at a problem doesn’t make it any better. The Boston Red Sox learned that the hard way, as they designated Pablo Sandoval for assignment earlier this week. He signed a five year, 95 million dollar deal in the same offseason as Martin, and now appears to be out of a job.

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For the Blue Jays, things could have taken a disastrous turn in that 2014 offseason. Then GM, Alex Anthopoulos, had some budget room to play with, and he was determined to bring in an impact player. He reportedly had Martin as his number one target all along, but he also checked in on several other key free agents that offseason. One of them that they were reportedly pretty serious about was Sandoval, who they looked at to play third.

At the time, pursing the San Francisco Giants’ playoff hero made some sense, but there were always red flags, and he wasn’t going to come on the cheap. Obviously he didn’t with the contract he inked in Boston, and fortunately the Blue Jays spent their money on other moves instead, such as Martin’s 82 million dollar deal.

Looking at the timeline, the Blue Jays obviously had several balls in the air in late November. They signed Russell Martin on November 18th to a five year deal as well, and many believed they were still serious about the Panda. Fortunately for the history of the Blue Jays, he signed with the Red Sox on November  25th, a move the Red Sox no doubt wish they had a mulligan to use on.

Of course, Anthopoulos eventually filled the third base position with somebody pretty decent anyway. Their big trade with the Oakland A’s brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto on November 28th, just three days after Sandoval’s signing, and 10 days after Martin committed to Toronto. The Blue Jays sent a talented package including Brett LawrieKendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and the prize of the group, Franklin Barreto, who is just now surfacing at the highest level.

Looking at how it all played out, imagine if the Blue Jays had ended up with Sandoval instead of Donaldson at the hot corner? One domino decision that absolutely would have altered the state of the franchise, maybe for the better part of a decade. It’s hard to imagine them getting to the ALCS in back to back years without the “Bringer of Rain”, especially when you replace him with Sandoval, a player just bad enough for the Red Sox to pay around 50 million to not play.

Next: Blue Jays: Is it time to hit the reset button?