The Boston Red Sox had a busy day on Monday, working out deals with both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, arguably the top two hitters in free agency. The rest of the offseason could be just as busy, especially given that this club is hoping to go from worst to World Series winners all over again.
Ramirez, the former Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop, has an agreement for $88 million over four years with a vesting option for a fifth year (at the same $22 million per), according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
The switch-hitting Sandoval, meanwhile, is leaving the San Francisco Giants, with whom he won three titles and established himself as one of the premier postseason players around over the past five seasons. The third baseman is getting a five-year deal in the range of $100 million, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Two major moves in one day means a number of ramifications—and even more still to come from the Red Sox and general manager Ben Cherington, whose wheeling-and-dealing evoked memories of his fast and furious efforts at the July 31st trade deadline.
Immediately, Boston's bats are much, much better than they were in 2014, a season in which the team finished 71-91—last in the American League East—and ranked in the bottom five in the AL in runs (634), home runs (123) and on-base plus slugging (.684).
While Sandoval will take over as the starting third baseman, a position that has posed problems for the Red Sox in recent years, it is not yet known what the plans are for Ramirez. He won't be playing shortstop, a position that belongs to 22-year-old Xander Bogaerts.
"One option is that Ramirez—who turns 31 next month—could move to the outfield," Ian Browne of MLB.com writes. "Though Ramirez has never played the outfield in the Major Leagues, he certainly seems to have the athleticism that would be necessary to make that transition."
While that may still be TBD at the moment, one thing is not: The Red Sox, who entered the offseason with some excess hitters, now have all kinds of surplus on the position-player front.
As Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required) writes:
Elite hitters are scarce, which is why the Red Sox landed Sandoval even after getting a deal done with Ramirez. Assuming i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, the Red Sox will sign the two best hitters in the free-agent market. …
…Possessing good hitters is like holding gold, and the Red Sox have a stack of commodities from which to deal.
This has led to immediate speculation that Cherington has more up his sleeve, because, frankly, he has to.
The additions of Ramirez and Sandoval make Boston better, but they also make the roster even more unbalanced than it was 24 hours ago. The Red Sox have a surplus of outfielders, cornermen and designated hitter types but are severely lacking in proven pitching.
To wit, the only pitcher on the entire 40-man roster with more than 50 starts to his name is Clay Buchholz, the 30-year-old right-hander who brandished an unwieldy 5.34 ERA in 2014 and has been as enigmatic and inconsistent as any starter in baseball in recent years.
The other potential members of the five-man rotation include Joe Kelly (48 career starts), Rubby De La Rosa (28), Allen Webster (18) and Brandon Workman (18), as well as rookies Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes, who haven't even combined for 50 innings total.
In other words, after trading away 80 percent of his rotation in July, Cherington's biggest priority at the outset of the offseason—starting pitching—is still his biggest priority. The good news, though, is he has plenty of pieces with which to work to address this need.
There have been no indications yet whether Monday's deals will impact the Red Sox's ability to bring in former ace Jon Lester, whom they traded away in July for slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The club put an offer on the table last week to the left-hander in the neighborhood of $110 million to $120 million over six years, per Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.
"We need to add to our rotation," Cherington said, via Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. "[Lester is] obviously a known commodity, a proven guy in our market. He’s of obvious interest."
Speaking of Cespedes, he has been mentioned as just one of many trade chips—and perhaps the most likely to go—in the wake of this action.
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes:
If you assume Ramirez plays left and [Rusney] Castillo either center or right, then Boston would have the following for outfield depth: Cespedes, [Allen] Craig, Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Brock Holt and Mookie Betts. The Red Sox have made it clear Betts is pretty much untouchable.
Also, with Sandoval in the fold, Boston has third baseman Will Middlebrooks to deal. Middlebrooks has not fulfilled his promise, but he still projects to have righty power, which is in demand. Also, the Red Sox could conceivably make first baseman Mike Napoli available and switch Craig to that position. In addition, well-regarded third base prospect Garin Cecchini, who played briefly in the majors last season, is now blocked and potentially available.
Given the demand for offense at a time when baseball is being dominated by pitching more and more, the Red Sox are in a very enviable position at the moment.
Plus, there's plenty of depth and talent in available pitching. Max Scherzer, James Shields and Lester are out there on the open market, waiting to be plucked.
On the trade side, there are possible candidates like the Philadelphia Phillies' Cole Hamels and Oakland Athletics' Jeff Samardzija, as well as Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister of the Washington Nationals, Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos of the Cincinnati Reds and Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy of the San Diego Padres.
Landing two or more from the above names (or any others that are available) is now atop Cherington's to-do list.
By snatching up Ramirez and Sandoval, the Red Sox made two major moves on Monday. The scary thing is, they're far from finished.
In fact, they only just got started.
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