The Boston Red Sox certainly made headlines on Monday as they managed to work out the kinks in order to pull off deals with both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the top two hitters available through free agency. While the moves certainly help take the meager Red Sox of 2014 into the playoff talk leading into 2015, the rest of the offseason could be just as busy.
Ramirez, the former Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop, inked his name to a $88 million contract over four years with a vesting option for a fifth year which will be the worth an additional $22 million.
Sandoval on the other hand is leaving the San Francisco Giants – a team where he won three World Series titles and established himself as one of the most potent postseason players around over the past five seasons – and will instead be signing with the Boston Red Sox on a five-year contract worth approximately $100 million.
The two major moves certainly elevated the Red Sox from cellar dwellers to competitors in the space of an hour, and even more still to come from the Red Sox and General Manager Ben Cherington in order to solidify the Red Sox as a perennial competitor in October.
With Ramirez and Sandoval set to wear the red and white of the Red Sox, Boston’s offense is expected to be considerably better than they were in 2014, a year where a relatively inconsistent team finished 71-91 — fifth place in the American League East — and ranked in the lower tier in the American League in runs, home runs, and on-base percentage.
While Sandoval will take the starting third baseman from Will Middlebrooks, his free agent counterpart, Hanley Ramirez, does not have an assigned position yet with Ben Cherington stating that Xander Bogaerts will be the starting shortstop come 2015; a position Ramirez has been specialized in for a large part of his career.
One option that is being discussed is the idea of playing Ramirez in left field. While Ramirez has not played outfield over the course of his major league career, it is widely anticipated that his athleticism would allow for him to translate his expectational ability with the glove from the infield to the outfield.
One certainty, through all this uncertainty, is that the Red Sox, who entered the offseason with excess hitters in the outfield, now have a surplus on the position-player front; a good position to be in for trades to develop the bullpen arms and starting rotation further.
The additions of Ramirez and Sandoval certainly make Boston better, but they also make the roster even more unbalanced than it was 48 hours ago. The Red Sox have far too many position players, and this could eventually lead to much trade speculation due to the profile of some of the players available on the trade front for the team.
Currently, the only pitcher on the 40-man roster with more than 50 starts over the course of a career is Clay Buchholz, the 30-year-old righty who posted a horrific 5.34 ERA in 2014 and has been as inconsistent as any starter in baseball in recent years.
As of right now, the rotation would likely consist of Allen Webster, Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, and Brandon Workman. Other players with a chance are rookies Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes, but they are yet to be proven in the big leagues making them unlikely to join the rotation until later in the season, if in fact they were to join the rotation.
After a fire sale resulted in four of Boston’s five certified starters, Cherington’s biggest priority over the course of the upcoming Winter Meetings is starting pitching. With a wide market for Cherington to cast his horizons on, the amount of depth the Red Sox currently posses will go a long way in developing a potentially potent rotation and bullpen.
As of right now, the name making headlines alongside the Red Sox is Jon Lester. While nothing has been said about whether or not the Ramirez and Sandoval deals will impact the Red Sox’s ability to bring in their former ace, whom they traded away in July for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, rumors are indicating that Boston has put an offer on the table last week to the left-hander in the neighborhood of $110 million to $120 million over six years.
In lieu of talking about Cespedes, it would be wise to bring up that he has been mentioned as just one of many trade chips Boston posses, and perhaps the most likely to go in the wake of this free agent movement.
If we go under the assumption that Ramirez will be playing left field and Rusney Castillo will make his major league debut in either center field or right field, then Boston would be left with Cespedes, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Brock Holt and Mookie Betts to fill the final outfield position. The Red Sox have made it clear Betts is pretty much untouchable, perhaps indicating their interest in developing their budding star, as well as indicating a desire to bring in pitching by dealing Cespedes, Craig, Victorino, Bradley Jr., Nava, and Holt.
Also, with Sandoval now slotting in as the starting third baseman, Boston has third baseman Will Middlebrooks available to bring up in trade talks.
For Boston, the depth and talent of available pitching is overwhelming and in excess giving Cherington multiple options to pursue. Max Scherzer, James Shields and Lester are out there on the open market, all unsigned, while names such as Jason Hammel, who is still highly productive, are also available on much more affordable deals.
When thinking on the trade side of things, Cole Hamels, Jeff Samardzija, Jordan Zimmerman, and Doug Fister arise as the top talent available, with even more names in the background who could serve as middle rotation pitchers or nice bullpen pieces.
By snatching up Ramirez and Sandoval, the Red Sox made two major moves, already exceeding the expectations placed on them at the start of the offseason, the scary thing is, though, that they are far from finished. In fact, the work to get back to October is just beginning. The batting lineup is taken care of, but the attention is now on the rotation.