Monday, November 24, 2014

Hanley and the Panda to Boston

The Boston Red Sox have agreed to longterm contracts with a pair of big name free agents, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo 'Kung Fu Panda' Sandoval.

MLB sources have told the Boston Globe that both deals are for 5 years, with Ramirez' in the $90 million and Sandoval in the $100 million range.

This is as clear a sign as any that the Bosox are not happy with having followed up their 2nd World Series title in 3 years in 2013 with their 2nd last place finish in 3 years in 2014.

While the adding of big name free agents is exciting for a fan base, the more important factors involve how those players will actually fit your current needs. The fact is that the Red Sox already owned a number of exciting offensive options, both in established players and in high-ceiling prospects.

The acquisition of both Ramirez and Sandoval brings a ton of risk to the organization at great monetary cost without addressing their most glaring need.
They still need at least two more established, talented starting pitching options than they currently possess. And they could use more reliability in the pen as well.

The risk side involves both players physical ability to perform through the contracts. Hanley, who turns 31 years old next month, has missed big chunks of 2 of the last 4 seasons with injuries, not including a piece of this last 2014 season. Sandoval, one of the game's proven "clutch" postseason hitters, is limited offensively over the course of a 162-game season. He also has a chronic weight issue that is only going to affect him more as he approaches and passes age 30.

Ramirez is going to play left field, and Sandoval will play 3rd base. With Cuban signee Rusney Castillo expected to take over the everyday role in centerfield, and with Yoenis Cespedes in right, this creates a blockade for a number of young players and prospects deserving of and ready for increased playing time.

Mookie Betts is clearly ready to play every day. He can play 2nd base, where Dustin Pedroia is entrenched, or in the now-jammed outfield. Jackie Bradley Jr is perhaps the best defensive outfielder in the game today. He has not yet shown he can hit on a consistent basis, but he appears ready for at least a shot at an every day role.

Catcher Blake Swihart just before and 3rd baseman Garin Cecchini just after Opening Day each turn 23 years old, and are both nearly ready. Will Middlebrooks is 26, and certainly ready for an everyday 3rd base role. Every one of these 5 youngsters is now blocked for the foreseeable future. Panda blocking the 3rd sackers, and 24-year old Christian Vazquez as catcher.

Kung Fu Panda joins Hanley in beefing up Bosox lineup

There is much speculation that with these signings, that the Red Sox may renew pursuit of a pitcher, such as the Phillies' available ace Cole Hamels. If they led such a deal with young shortstop Xander Bogaerts and included any 2 of these other 5, the Phils likely pull the trigger. 24-year old pitchers Matt Barnes and Allen Webster are two other potential prospects figuring in such trade talks.

Some Boston fans would love the Phillies to take Cespedes for Hamels. That is a pipe dream. Cespedes is indeed talented. However, he turned 29 last month, and becomes a free agent after next season. Neither of those things fits into the Phillies stated rebuilding plans. If he were to agree to an affordable extension, then perhaps he works as a piece along with a couple of the prospects, but that is not likely to happen.

Whatever happens with the Phillies and Red Sox, Boston clearly needs to do something big, probably a couple somethings, involving the addition of pitching if it truly wants to come back immediately to Series contention from it's last place finish in what is becoming an increasingly competitive division and league.

What they have shown with the signings of their one-time prospect Hanley Ramirez and the Panda are that they are not content to wait for the dice-roll development of admittedly talented kids. Now we likely will see which of those kid prospects they are willing and able to part with in order to fix the remaining pitching holes.

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