With the Red Sox reportedly close to finalizing deals to land Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, ESPN’s Buster Olney checked in with the Middays with MFB crew for an update and analysis of the situation. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Olney said Sandoval appears to have chosen the Red Sox over the Giants despite similar offers.
“I was really surprised,” Olney said. “I thought that if the bidding were close, knowing Sandoval’s history with the Giants, knowing the Giants’ history of re-signing their own players, I thought that he would go back there. I thought that if any team was going to pry Sandoval away from the Giants it was going to be with a huge offer that far outweighed what San Francisco was putting on the table, and yet the offer that the Giants were talking about, which was $95 million plus the promise if Sandoval came back to them and asked for more was for something in the range of $100 million, that Sandoval just decided, apparently, that with two equal offers he wanted to go to Boston. And the Giants actually asked him in the last 24 hours, ‘Look, is there something we can do?’ And the answer they got back was no. That part of it really surprised me.
“It doesn’t necessarily surprise me that the Red Sox would be in on Hanley Ramirez, because I think once he — through his agent, Adam Katz — got it out there that he was willing to change positions, I think people looked at him very differently. Because as I mentioned earlier today, it’s a market that’s so lacking in good offensive players. Hanley Ramirez stands out, especially when you take him out of Dodger Stadium, which is a notorious pitcher’s park. You put him in other places, he can really rake.
“So for the Red Sox to land both those guys, it’s going to be a very different-looking offense than last year when it always seemed like they were bringing a knife to a gun fight.”
Now the question becomes how Sandoval and Ramirez will fit into the Red Sox lineup, and which dominos will fall as a result of these acquisitions.
“I do think that part of the reason why they did this is because of what they saw in [Yoenis] Cespedes the last two months, probably,” Olney said. “The same type of stuff that Oakland saw in Cespedes, and was part of the reason why they traded him, was a player who didn’t get on base a whole lot, who strikes out a whole lot, and has unbelievable power but a real question about whether or not he was going to translate next year. And on top of that, I think that everyone has the sense that he wants to become a free agent next fall. So he would be clearly the No. 1 candidate to move.
“[Mike] Napoli becomes an interesting guy to talk about. I don’t know if they necessarily would move him. Allen Craig is a lot like [Shane] Victorino. I think if you trade him now, with about $25 million owed to him, you’d have to eat a whole lot of that, because there are a whole lot of questions about him physically. And you’re not going to necessarily get a team to buy in. And you’ll want to wait on that. And if you have [Rusney] Castillo in one of the outfield spots, Mookie Betts in one of the outfield spots, Hanley Ramirez, where Victorino is the fourth, then the question becomes, OK, what are you going to do with Allen Craig?
“And that’s why in a market that is really lacking in power, you wonder if they’ll be out there at least asking teams — not necessarily marketing Napoli but just asking them, ‘Look, what will you give us for him?’ Because he’s a good first baseman, owed $16 million, and there isn’t as much risk as some of these other guys.”
One player Olney does not expect the Sox to move is Betts, their speedy young center fielder.
“I think it would take a lot for them to move Mookie Betts,” Olney said. “Because they were so impressed by him down the stretch, not only what he did on the field but how he carried himself. And he just looks like a player that you’re going to build around and grow around going forward. He just has that presence about him.”
Added Olney: And I suspect [Xander] Bogaerts is someone like Mookie Betts, if someone asks about him they might have a conversation. But we saw such great things out of him in 2013. And if you trade him now you’re probably trading him a little bit less than what you thought he was 13 months ago. So I’ve got to believe that the Red Sox would hang on to those two guys.
“I do wonder if someone were to say to them, ‘Look, we’re looking for a fourth outfielder, we’ll give you some value for Jackie Bradley Jr.,’ if they would be very open to that. But at the same time, again, I think you’d be trading very low on his value right now.”
Jon Lester remains on the market, and his list of suitors reportedly is very large.
“I do know for sure that the Giants are looking into Lester,” Olney said. “They’ve got a lot of money, and it’s obviously a place where people want to go and play. You’ve got to believe Jake Peavy is probably doing some recruiting on behalf of the Giants about Lester going over there. He’d be a great fit, he’d love the clubhouse culture over there.
“We’ll see if one of the other teams that they’ve talked to — the St. Louis Cardinals, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs — if any of those teams step up. I don’t know. A lot of what the Red Sox have done over the last year has been fascinating because you’re trying to find a consistent line of thought, and it’s hard to find one. But maybe that’s just because the circumstances have changed so much with the lack of offense.
“But you’d think that you’re basically paying these two players now — it’s been pointed out to me by executives of other teams — [more] than you offered Jon Lester in the spring. It’s kind of a head-scratcher. But I think that’s just a reflection of where we are in the market.”