For many baseball fans October 2014 has been an exhilarating time of year. However, for fans who saw their teams’ seasons end late-September, the focus is now on the upcoming offseason. The Boston Red Sox unfortunately fit in the latter category, and are consequently in full-offseason mode. But while us Red Sox fans have in mind what we would like to see on the Opening Day roster, the brasses’ projected squad likely looks entirely different, with myself (purposely) neglecting to acknowledge the all-too-real concept of an open market where Boston will have to vie against twenty-nine other teams to acquire a single piece.
So, yes, I do not know what this offseason will behold for the 2014 A.L. East cellar-dwellers. I do know, however, that there have been rumors linking the Red Sox to looming free-agent Pablo Sandoval. And, though, it is a dull time of year for Boston baseball fans, there is always something to talk about; this time around being whether or not Sandoval is the best option for the Sox at the hot corner in ’15.
Before we even begin comparing Sandoval to other potential free-agent third basemen, it is imperative that we acknowledge the Red Sox’ internal options for next season. To start, there’s Will Middlebrooks, a now-26 year-old, who has lost the ability to hit altogether, on top of sub-par defense. How much longer can Ben Cherington and Co. really be hung onto the fallacy that he will revert to his 2012-self? Hopefully not much longer.
Then, there is touted prospect Garin Cecchini who compiled an outstanding 131 wRC+ in his first and only month (so far) in the big-leagues. His minor-league track record is sterling, sans a blip in his performance in Triple-A Pawtucket this year, and you have to believe Boston will use him in some advantageous fashion in ’15 whether it be indirectly (trade) or directly.
Finally, there’s Brock Holt. He had a surprisingly delightful season this year, but his September drop-off makes him a dubious case to occupy a starting position next year.
Middlebrooks, one has to surmise, will not be on the roster next year. Yet Cecchini and Holt will be pending an unforeseen trade. Now, let’s delve into Boston’s external options, including and starting with Sandoval, for next season.
The hefty third basemen’s offense has been gradually declining each year: .909 OPS in ’11, .789 OPS in ’12, .758 OPS in ’13, and .739 OPS in ’14. He’s still an above-average offensive player in a tough hitters’ park, and, according to the metrics, holds the position down well. All said, he’s a pretty good gamble, but probably not a $100 million one.
Other market-sensible options include Chase Headley, Hanley Ramirez, and maybe Aramis Ramirez. Aramis has a mutual option in ’15, and even if it isn’t exercised the guy is entering his age-37 season. Hanley, on the other hand, can hit but is almost certainly too expensive for the Red Sox’ taste.
Finally, Headley is an intriguing case; he is a stud with the glove and has shown he can handle the stick in the past. In fact, Headley has amassed a 15.2 fWAR the past three seasons, whereas Sandoval has a 7.9 fWAR in that same time-span.
To me, there’s three sensible things the Red Sox could do: 1. Sign Headley to a multi-year deal 2. Sign Sandoval to a multi-year deal or 3. Find a capable right-handed hitting complement for Cecchini. Wedged in the middle, the signing of Sandoval, seems to be the most-favored among Red Sox fans; however, the Headley signing and Cecchini complement seem to be the most wise from an economic standpoint. With that said, the Red Sox seemed to make conservative and financially-restrained moves last off-season; and how did that work out?