Monday was a big day in the world of baseball contracts, including Kyle Seager's 7-year, $100 million deal with the Mariners. The team making the biggest splash by far, though, was the Boston Red Sox, with their signings of both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to long-term deals. I'll break down not only the deals and how they project going forward, but also the larger implications for the Red Sox and the rest of the division.
The Kung Fu Panda reportedly signed for 5 years and $95 million (with a club option), putting him in Boston through at least the 2019 season. Steamer projects Sandoval for 3.6 fWAR next year, his age-28 season. Sandoval has been decently durable to date in his career, missing time in 2011 and 2012 but having at least 584 PA in his other four complete seasons (and 639 across three levels in 2008). He adds value on both sides of the ball, as a slightly-above-average defender at a reasonably difficult position and a slightly-above-average hitter as well. He's no Adrian Beltre, but Sandoval's ability to make contact (13.3 K%, 3rd-lowest among 3rd basemen) keeps his production up.
A major question is whether Sandoval's batted-ball profile will translate well from AT&T Park to Fenway: Boston had the fifth-highest park factor last year, while San Francisco had the sixth-lowest. Sandoval, as a hitter who goes to all fields (see the spray charts below, broken out by handedness), it's possible he might be hurt by the lack of outfield space.
His career BABIP is .326 at home versus .300 on the road, a swing that projects to about a 15-hit difference for a season. Sandoval may lose hits that used to drop between and in front of outfielders, but he should also get a bit of a boost from peppering the left field wall. Exactly how it shakes out remains to be seen.
At nearly 31, Ramirez is a full three years older than Sandoval. He is reported to have signed for 4 years and $88 million, with a fifth year vesting option for another $22 million. Although Ramirez was never an elite defender, his skills have declined of late, and with Sandoval at third and Xander Bogaerts the shortstop of the future, it's likely Ramirez will move to the outfield (more on the excess of outfielders Boston has coming up).
The big concern, though, is his health. After being the picture of durability his first few years in the league, Ramirez has only topped 550 PA once since 2010 (in 2012). As others have written, Ramirez has been plagued by numerous nicks and bruises throughout his tenure with the Dodgers. Steamer pegs him for 648 PA and 3.8 fWAR next year, which I view as a best-case scenario (at least in terms of playing time). He'll get his share of hits, certainly, and if he stays healthy the Red Sox will be pretty pleased with their investment (yeah, even $110 million players can be bargains).
Left field seems like the most likely destination (the same conclusion reached by Jeff Sullivan in the linked piece above); this makes lots of sense for the Red Sox since range is less of a factor with the Green Monster looming than it is in other parks. There's certain to be an adjustment period, especially since the Monster plays far differently than any other outfield wall, but Ramirez is a good athlete and should be able to pick up the outfield without too much trouble.
The real question, though, is who will move aside to make room for Ramirez. The Red Sox have Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Daniel Nava all on the 40-man roster. That's eight guys, counting Ramirez, for three starting spots (plus a couple bench players). Boston seems pretty committed to Betts for the long haul, so it's unlikely he'll be moved. JBJ could certainly bring a decent return, but the most attractive trading chip is definitely Cespedes. With one year left on his contract before hitting free agency, the Red Sox could get a pitcher, someone like Mat Latos or Cole Hamels (with other pieces thrown in, obviously), and keep reaping the returns of the Jon Lester trade for years to come.
Speaking of Lester, getting rid of Cespedes and his $10.5 million hit (and maybe Craig and his $8.5 annual salary as well) would free up money for the Sox to make a significant run at a free-agent pitcher. With Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields all on the market, and Boston looking like a serious contender in a subpar AL East, they'd have a pretty good case to sell prospective signees on as well. That doesn't even factor in Lester's familiarity with the organization and his professed interest in returning.
With some big moves early in the offseason, the Red Sox have sent the message that they aren't waiting for years to rebuild from a poor 2014. Locking up Sandoval and Ramirez can be seen as a response to the Blue Jays' recent signing of Russell Martin, and Boston is by no means done wheeling and dealing. While I don't foresee anything like the massive deals pulled off by "GM" Bryan Grosnick and the rest of the BtBS staff in SBNation's mock offseason, expect more headlines coming out of Fenway Park before winter draws to a close.
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Steven Silverman is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score and a student at Carnegie Mellon University. He also writes for Batting Leadoff. You can follow him on Twitter at @Silver_Stats or email him at Steven@SilverStats.com.