Red Sox Load Up for Another Run at Title ; after 2 Big Signings, Boston Has Trading Chips to Bolster Its Rotation

By Kepner, Tyler | International New York Times, November 26, 2014 | Go to article overview

Red Sox Load Up for Another Run at Title ; after 2 Big Signings, Boston Has Trading Chips to Bolster Its Rotation


Kepner, Tyler, International New York Times


Pablo Sandoval is headed to Boston, bumping Hanley Ramirez to a crowded outfield and opening an array of options for a team trying to rebuild.

Someday soon, the Boston Red Sox will get around to shaking up their gridlocked outfield. For now, though, they keep adding to it, like squeezing another car onto a crowded highway, just in time for the holiday rush.

Pablo Sandoval is not an outfielder, he is a third baseman. But now that Sandoval is headed to the Red Sox as a free agent, for five years and about $100 million, pending a physical, he will bump another nearly official new Red Sox hitter, Hanley Ramirez, to the outfield.

Ramirez, who is getting $88 million for four years, also pending a physical, has never played the outfield across 13 professional seasons. But he told the Red Sox during negotiations that he would be comfortable moving to a new position. And the Red Sox seem to have unlimited room for outfielders, even though the lineup card allows for only three.

Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Ramirez and Shane Victorino could all make a case to be starting outfielders in the majors. None can move to designated hitter in Boston because that spot belongs to David Ortiz.

For the Red Sox -- aggressive spenders yet again -- the deals for Sandoval and Ramirez, when completed, will open up an array of options and possibilities as they seek to rebuild their starting rotation and take another run at a championship.

It stands to reason that Ramirez will play left field -- as another Ramirez, Manny, once did -- and that Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract last summer after defecting from Cuba, will also have a spot. Nava is a championship-level fourth outfielder, so he could stay, too.

That leaves Cespedes and Victorino, each with one year left on his contract. Craig is owed $26.5 million through 2017 and is coming off a dreary season that only got worse after Boston acquired him from St. Louis. Bradley, 24, is an exceptional fielder but has struggled to hit, and Betts, 22, made a strong first impression last season.

Ben Cherington, Boston's general manager, must shift these pieces to the right spots, and he has a glaring opening to address. Last summer the Red Sox swiftly disassembled the rotation that helped them win the 2013 World Series, trading Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront.

The team's prospective 2015 rotation includes Clay Buchholz, who had a 5.34 earned run average in 28 starts last season, and Joe Kelly, who had a 4.20 E.R.A. in 17 starts for the Cardinals and the Red Sox. Beyond that are questions -- several young pitchers offer promise, but with the Sandoval and Ramirez signings, the Red Sox have shown their hand.

The Red Sox are going for it, again. This is their intention every season, but they know a lost cause when they see one. They were willing to sacrifice the end of their 2012 and 2014 seasons to better prepare for the future. That paid off with the 2013 title, and now we will see how it works in 2015. …

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