Today the Boston Red Sox announced the signings of Third Baseman Pablo Sandoval and Shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
The 5-year, $100 million deal and the 4-year, $88 million contract, respectively, make sense. (Ramirez also has a fifth-year vesting option worth $22 million.)
They seem like logical signings for a few reasons: They are high-priced, but over fewer years than some may have thought they’d receive on the open market. These are deals like-minded of the Sox past – not the ones reminiscent of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez – but the Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes contracts. They overpay for the short-term, which is now making sense, particularly in Victorino’s case.
Furthermore, the free agent class this year had exactly two significant, game-changing bats available. The Red Sox offense, anemic last season, tied for the fourth-fewest runs scored in the American League, signed both of them.
Also, they perfectly fit the Sox scheme. Sandoval is a defensively solid, albeit not flashy, third baseman while being a consistent contact hitter with the possibility of pop. Sandoval also leaves the afar fences of AT&T, where the San Francisco Giants play, the biggest pitcher-friendly park in the majors, for a hitter-benevolent Fenway. He’s young, like-able, and does not mind playing under pressure – see his World Series performances three of the last five years – so there’s no worry of him Carl Crawford-ing. (Read: wilting in the spotlight.)
Sandoval, dubbed with many nicknames, is known as the “Round Mound of Pound” which shows that his defensive prowess just complements his hitting. The switch-hitter provides the lineup with flexibility while allowing the pudgier corner-man to also become a pretty good Designated Hitter when David Ortiz, who just turned 39 years old, eventually retires.
This also means that Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, whose injuries and inconsistent play have had him bouncing back and forth between Triple-A Pawtucket and the Sox for the better part of three years, time in Boston is most likely up. It’s not that the 26-year-old isn’t valuable, he just has become too unreliable to count on.
So after re-tooling the hot corner, the Sox went to work on solidifying the other position of the left side of the infield: Short.
They signed Hanley Ramirez, the coveted Sox prospect who went to the then-Florida Marlins for what turned out to be the haul of Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett which led the team to the 2007 World Series crown.
But signing Ramirez, who is one step away from going from a “minor disaster” at shortstop to a full-blown car wreck, presents a problem.
Xander Bogaerts used to man the position, or did at the beginning of last season anyway, until the Sox favored bringing back Stephen Drew instead.
Now the question is: Who will play short?
Most likely it’ll be Bogaerts, because management has said that they prefer the younger phenom in place of Ramirez, but then that presents a quandary because this is a typical Red Sox move: Sign a big bat and then figure out which position works for him later.
The speculation has Ramirez as the 2015 opening day Left Fielder, but then that means Yoenis Cespedes, traded for at the deadline in exchange for ace Jon Lester – and more on him in a moment – would have to move. And where?
Cespedes could move to the spacious right field in Fenway – he has the arm and mobility – but then that displaces St. Louis import Allen Craig. All this comes with the question marks of Shane Victorino’s health, Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s bat, and Rusney Castillo’s translation to the American market.
Oh, and right, they have Mookie Betts, who Red Sox management firmly believes will be an All-Star soon, who does not have a position or even defined role on the team. The same goes with the other highly-touted prospects third baseman/outfielder Garin Cecchini and center fielder Manuel Margot.
There are three slots, and a lot more than three names.
So where do the Red Sox go with all this?
After signing Sandoval and Ramirez, it doesn’t make the Boston front office any likelier to penny-pinch, but the extent they will go to re-sign Lester must be questioned after spending what could be, if Ramirez reaches his vesting option, $210 million today alone.
If the Sox don’t get Lester: One, their rotation will lack a top-shelf guy, and two, they need one to win the World Series and they know it.
Then comes the long-awaited prospect-overhaul in exchange for Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels. It’s rumored that he may veto any trade to an American League ball-club, but this move makes all too much sense considering how bad the Phillies will be next year and the multitudes of young talent Boston could entice a re-building Philadelphia team with.
The deal would most likely be centered around Cecchini or Betts and then fodder and other solid prospects to force the Phillies to give up Hamels.
It doesn’t matter that this Red Sox team lost 91 games just a season ago, because they’re reloading.
When they take the field next April on Opening Day, Sandoval will be manning the hot corner, but every other position, who knows?
Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York as a freshman at Syracuse University. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter, Kanye West, and using the word “wicked.” He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.