The Boston Red Sox became instant World Series contenders when they signed free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to long term contracts. In recent season, the Red Sox have made Major League history by becoming the only team to go from worst in their division to World Series Champions before going back to the worst team in the division. This free agent coup is an attempt by Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington to continue these erratic swings for at least one more season, and make them a contender for the foreseeable future. With the Red Sox still rumored to be in the free agent market for starting pitching, the roster will be dramatically improved from last year’s.
Sandoval must be considered the bigger of the two signings and not just because of his 5’11’’, 245 lb frame. The Red Sox signed the Kung Fu Panda to a five-year, $95 million contract with a club option for a sixth year. At 28, Boston will be seeing Sandoval perform at what should be the peak of his career, although it will be tough to improve over three World Series titles in the last five years with the Red Sox. Sandoval played 157 games last season and managed to improve on his home run and run totals from the two previous years. The playoffs seem to be where Sandoval shines brightest, with a batting average of .344, and that is a destination the Red Sox should be in 2015.
Hanley Ramirez is a player that should benefit greatly from the switch from the National League to the American League. He will be valuable to the Red Sox at both the shortstop position and as a designated hitter option, which should allow him to play more games than he did during his first two seasons in Los Angeles. The Red Sox have also discussed the possibility of playing Ramirez in left field, which would give them an even more versatile lineup. This will also help Ramirez, who has been rated as a poor defensive shortstop.
Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts will likely be the odd men out, the men who are displaced by the free agent signings. The 22-year-old Bogaerts split time between shortstop and third base last season, and could still see some time there because of Hanley Ramirez’ injury prone nature. Bogaerts had a disappointing offensive season, but is still highly regarded as an elite prospect for the future. Betts had a solid half season with the Red Sox, where he batted .291 in his 52 games in the Majors. The Red Sox have both players locked up for the foreseeable future, but could look to use them as valuable trade assets, possibly for a starting pitcher like Cole Hamels.
The Red Sox infield will be one of the best in baseball with a Mike Napoli and Sandoval on the corners and Bogaerts or Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia playing up the middle. Christian Vazquez will spend another season behind the plane and remains a decent option despite his offensive shortcomings and original sin of not being Jason Varitek. Cespedes, Ramirez, Bradley Jr., Betts, and Victorino will all spend time in the outfield. This roster matches up favorably to any team in the American League East, especially considering the Orioles just lost AL Home Run King Nelson Cruz and the Yankees have yet to make a major splash in the free agent market. Toronto made a big commitment to 31-year-old catcher Russell Martin, who will likely be unable to replicate the offensive production he had last season in Pittsburgh. They also picked up Josh Donaldson, which was a solid move, but it’s not enough to match the strong line-up the Red Sox have put together. It does appear that they will be the biggest competition for the Sox this season.
Overall, the Red Sox have put themselves in a position to dramatically improve in the 2015 season. They are still in the running for free agent aces Jon Lester and James Shields. If they can acquire either of those two, they will be the runaway favorites to win the division, barring major free agent activity from either the Yankees or Orioles. Even with their current starting rotation, the Red Sox will be radically improved over the 2014 version. Manager John Farrell has been given the tools to succeed, and it will be a different team on the field in 2015.
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