The Red Sox are coming off two last place finishes in the last three years. Sure, that middle year was only a World Series title, but Red Sox fans have become … what’s the charitable word here … demanding.
Thus, with money to spend and a throne to reclaim, it’s no surprise that Boston is heavily connected to a number of free agents this offseason. You could argue, even, that it started with Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, whom the Red Sox signed later in the 2014 season.
And, if Jon Heyman’s latest report is to be credited, Boston might be on the verge of a huge free agent spending spree.
Heyman says the Red Sox are trying to land not only Pablo Sandoval right now, about which we knew, but also infielder Hanley Ramirez. Moreover, Heyman suggests the talks with Ramirez are very serious, and the two sides are “believed to be possibly moving toward an agreement.” There’s plenty of hedging language in there, but it sounds like something more than mere interest. Further, shortly after Heyman’s report, Alex Speier added that the Red Sox/Ramirez connection is not only legitimate, but a deal “could come together quickly,” according to a source.
Imagining for a moment that the Red Sox do quickly put together deals for Sandoval and Ramirez, you’re mostly wondering just one thing: what does this mean for Jon Lester?
Well, let me dispel any notions you might have that there is a financial issue here. There isn’t. The Red Sox have plenty of money and plenty of need. Landing these two pricey free agents is not going to stop them from also having enough money to land Lester (even as you may debate the wisdom of signing three nine-figure-ish contracts in the same offseason).
To the contrary, I can envision a scenario where adding two big-time bats is further enticement for Lester to sign with the Red Sox. Even if Lester had any misgivings about the Red Sox’s recent performance, he’s going to be reminded that it is an organization that is always ready and willing to spend to remain competitive, and he’ll also likely see a very good chance at winning in the near term.
If the plan is to put Sandoval at third and Ramirez at shortstop (and Xander Bogaerts … where?), maybe Lester bristles a little at the thought of that shortstop defense behind him, but that’s not going to be enough to sway him.
In other words, my from-the-hip, instant-suspicion on the impact of the Red Sox landing both Sandoval and Ramirez is that it’s more likely to help their pursuit of Lester than hinder it. I’d say at worst for the Sox, it’s neutral. At best, he gets a little more excited.
Mostly, though, I don’t think you can read too much of anything into it. Armchair psychology with respect to people you don’t actually know won’t usually get you too far. All we know for sure is that, if the Red Sox get these two guys, they look all the more improved for 2015.
As an aside …
While there are positional reasons you could question the Red Sox going after both Sandoval and Ramirez, I would applaud one aspect of the pursuit: stacking qualified free agent signings. Like the Cubs, the Red Sox have a protected first round pick in 2015. Thus, when they sign a free agent who received and rejected a qualifying offer, they’ll lose only their second round pick. And, then, if they sign another qualified free agent, they’ll lose only their third rounder – thus reducing the effective “cost” they pay for the signing relative to other teams (compare, for example, if the Red Sox stand to lose their third rounder for one of these guys – a pick in the 90 range – while some other team might stand to lose their first rounder, perhaps a pick as high as 12 or 13 overall. That’s an enormous difference, and a huge bidding advantage for the Red Sox).
If the free agents line up, this is a strategy I would still like to see the Cubs explore. If the Red Sox pull it off, good on them. Well, the strategy part, anyway. I’m not so sure Sandoval and Ramirez are the right guys with which to do it, but that’s a separate discussion.