Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Red Sox Sign Both Hanley Ramirez & Pablo Sandoval, Because Why The Hell Not?
Two out of the last three seasons, the Red Sox have finished in last place in the AL East. That's not acceptable by any means and the fact that they won the 2013 World Series in between is still nearly impossible to explain. With no salary cap in baseball, an extremely loyal fan base that pays the highest tickets prices in MLB and filthy rich owners, Boston has no excuse but to spend like crazy this offseason to regain their relevance both regionally and nationally.
The Red Sox took a big step forward in terms of wins in 2015 and beyond by signing both shortstop Hanley Ramirez and third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Ramirez, the former Red Sox prized prospect that was traded to Florida in the Josh Beckett deal (November 2005), is reportedly getting a four-year deal worth $88 million with a vesting fifth year worth an additional $22 million. The figures on Sandoval's deal aren't known yet but it is thought to be in the five-year and $90 million range.
Take a breath. The interesting part about this is that while Sandoval was rumored to be coming here for weeks, Ramirez's name wasn't mentioned at all until it was basically signed, sealed and delivered yesterday. They both come with issues: Ramirez has missed a bunch of games the last two seasons with the Dodgers due to various injuries while Sandoval's weight is a constant battle. Ramirez is willing to move away from shortstop which will probably be the case here unless the Red Sox trade Xander Bogaerts (no!). His defense at shortstop wasn't great anymore and as we've seen time and again, any schmoe can play a decent left field at Fenway Park. Sandoval is two years younger (30-28) than Ramirez and while he doesn't have the same tools, he has been a more consistent performer in the postseason (.344 average in 39 games) as he helped San Francisco win three of the last five World Series crowns.
Even before these two moves (the Red Sox will have a press conference to introduce them on Tuesday at 1pm), we knew that the team's biggest need was top of the rotation starting pitching. This certainly improves their lineup but they won't go anywhere without a true ace (Jon Lester?) and a solid number two (James Shields or Cole Hamels?). You worry a bit that both guys have played their entire careers in the kinder, gentler National League, plus they are each coming from California which couldn't be more different than Massachusetts.
The money and risk is worth it because this is the Red Sox who can afford to make high-profile mistakes. I'm not wishing that on them with these guys or predicting it but honestly, what do they have to lose at this point? Ramirez won the NL batting title in 2009 and led the NL in OPS last season (.283, 13 HRs, 71 RBIs, .369 OBP, .448 SLG). Sandoval's regular season numbers won't blow you away (.279 with 16 HRs, 73 RBIs, .324 OBP, .415 SLG) last season) but keep in mind the lack of protection he played with in the Giants' lineup and also what a pitcher's park AT&T has proven to be. Oh and third base was a black hole for Boston last season so anything would be an improvement over that.
There is no question that these two make the Red Sox way better than they were yesterday without them and isn't that ultimately what this is all about? Sure we might not be in love with the player (on paper at least) or the contract (remember it's not our money) but you have to appreciate Boston's attitude here: they are going for it, again, after some truly awful years that should rarely happen to them.
UPDATE 11/25: It's a five-year deal for Sandoval-the 2012 World Series MVP-with an option for 2020.