So much for the Red Sox philosophy of not foolishly throwing big money at players who are on the wrong end of their prime years. The Red Sox just spent (burned?) $183 million on two players. Welcome to Boston, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. They were the two best bats in free agency and the Sox landed both.
Not everyone on the Red Sox should be happy. There are only nine spots in the lineup and the Sox just added two bats who will be playing ever day. That means two position players have to go. In the matter of twenty-four hours, some players’ fates changed. Some have had their roles diminished or even eliminated. GM Ben Cherington has said he is now happy with his offense and will now be shifting his attention to pitching. So the lineup looks to be set. Here’s a look at some players and the way these signings have impacted them:
Yoenis Cespedes- Yoenis, we hardly knew ye. Hanley Ramirez was introduced at his press conference as “the new left fielder.” Clear enough. If there was any ambiguity about where the former shortstop (and possible third baseman) would play, Ben Cherington cleared it up right off the bat. Cespedes is the one most immediately impacted. He was the left fielder. Now he must either shift to right field or, even, center field. He showed a reluctance to play anywhere besides left field when he came to Boston so there is no reason to believe he’d be happy with a shift now (even if he says he is fine with it). Cherington won’t admit it, but it was a mistake bringing Cespedes to Boston. They didn’t vet the situation properly. Look for Cherington to correct his mistake and trade Cespedes sooner rather than later. Cincinnati, Seattle, and San Diego look like the logical landing spots. They’re all looking for power outfield bats. What kind of return could the Red Sox expect? The Sox would be looking at Mike Leake, Mat Latos, James Paxton, and Ian Kennedy. If the Sox throw in some prospects, they could land Johnny Cueto, Hisashi Iwakuma, or Andrew Cashner.
Allen Craig- Craig was the other big bat the Sox acquired at the trade deadline. Like Cespedes, his future in Boston is now uncertain. Craig’s best positions at this stage of his career are left field and first base. Hanley is now the left fielder and Mike Napoli is pretty set at first base (more on that later). Besides, Craig needs to regain his stroke if he even wants to be considered for a starting spot. His trade value is at an all-time low so forget that avenue. He is a backup first baseman/outfielder right now on this team, but that could change if Napoli gets dealt.
Mookie Betts- It’s hard to believe, but the Red Sox best player in September may be shut out of a position in 2015. There are no infield spots open and the outfield is crowded with players making big money. What happens with Betts? He is ready for the majors. He has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, yet that looks like where he will begin the season next year. That’s a shame because he projects as the Sox best leadoff hitter. His best chance to stick is if Cherington can find a way to unload Shane Victorino, but that will be close to impossible with Victorino coming off back surgery. Betts could be packaged in a deal to get an ace pitcher, but Boston sounds reluctant to move him.
Xander Bogaerts- There are still those who believe Bogaerts may get dealt. There is speculation that the shortstop-starved Mets believe Bogaerts will be made available. If anything was learned from the Ramirez press conference it is that Cherington believes in Bogaerts as his shortstop. Why else start by announcing that Hanley is the new left fielder? That had to make Xander feel good. He lost his shortstop job last season to Stephen Drew, for crying out loud. Bogaerts has often been compared to Ramirez and now they will be in the same dugout. Ramirez can relate to what Bogaerts is going through and can guide him through the pitfalls on the road to becoming a superstar.
Mike Napoli- Don’t sleep on Napoli being traded. Napoli is in the last year of his contract. He is a power bat in a power-starved league. His defense at first base has been, surprisingly, very good. He could help a lot of teams. If the Sox trade Napoli, it would open up a spot for Craig, who is signed through 2017. Unfortunately, Napoli is coming off a down year in which he struggled with injuries. The Red Sox would be selling low with Napoli. Do you see a trend here?
Will Middlebrooks- Wherever Middlebrooks is relaxing these days (one thing is for sure- he is not playing winter ball), he saw his ticket out of Boston punched with the Sandoval signing. Watch for him to hit 30 home runs with the Marlins in 2017. That’s fine– it just wasn’t meant to be here.
Rusney Castillo- He’ll be in the Opening Day lineup. The Sox have invested, heavily, in Castillo and they will be expecting immediate returns. The question is will Castillo play center field or right field. He played, exclusively, center field once he joined the Sox organization in September. Does that mean Castillo in center and Victorino in right in 2015? Do the Red Sox deal (or dump) Victorino — their best defensive outfielder right now — and go with Betts in center and Castillo in right? And where do they bat Castillo in the lineup? Are the Sox going to be paying Castillo $11 million per year to bat eighth in the lineup? Possibly.
The situation is still fluid. There is still work to be done. The Red Sox did only win 71 games in 2014. They’ll need to win twenty more games to be a playoff contender in 2015. This is just a short list of the players most impacted by this week’s signings, but Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, and Bryce Brentz have all seen their futures in Boston impacted in a negative way. While Cherington will now turn his attention to building a starting rotation, some of these bats will have to be used as trade bait.