As the Boston Red Sox finished play on Saturday evening with a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals, the preseason favorites sunk even further in the AL East standings. They currently sit in last place with a record of 30-40, 10 games back of the first place Tampa Bay Rays. A microcosm of a season in which the Red Sox were expected to return from a disappointing 2014 and attempt to become a contender once again.
But as FOX Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal writes in his latest piece, perhaps it’s time for the team to abandon their current strategy and attempt to rebuild under a new direction.
Arguably the two biggest signings any team could have made during the offseason were sluggers Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Both men considered among the best with the bat but just as importantly, both men came with their share of question marks. For Ramirez, it was his defensive shortcomings at both third base and shortstop and his injury history. In Sandoval’s case, it was continuous issues with his weight and commitment to physical conditioning.
The Red Sox signed both men.
Ramirez received a four-year deal worth $88 million with a vesting option for a fifth year. Sandoval received a five-year, $100 million contract with a vesting option for a sixth year.
Early on, Ramirez was leading the American League in home runs but to this day, the Red Sox decision to stick him in left field has not gone smoothly. For the most part, Ramirez has looked lost in the outfield and his career-long affliction with being hurt has reared its ugly head on a few occasions with no serious injuries as of yet. Ramirez owns a.273 batting average with 14 HR and 36 RBI in 64 games.
For Sandoval, the former World Series hero with the San Francisco Giants has struggled to replicate his prior success to this point and is currently being scrutinized for using social media during a game this week, causing the Red Sox skipper John Farrell to bench him for one game. He is currently listed as day-to-day after hurting his foot in Saturday’s loss.
Sandoval is in a walking boot.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) June 21, 2015
By comparison, Sandoval’s current batting line sits at.270 with 6 HR and 23 RBI in 61 games. The man who replaced him at third base in San Francisco, Matt Duffy, currently owns a.291 average with 6 HR and 33 RBI in 57 games, while providing better defense.
So is it time to deviate from a plan that isn’t working? Rosenthal seems to think so.
In 2012, the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to one of the biggest trades in recent history. The team sent outfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, and infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for first baseman James Loney, minor league pitchers Allan Webster and Ivan DeJesus, Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, and two players to be named later.
A trade that freed the Red Sox of over $250 million in salary through 2018, allowing the team to rebuild. And that they did, a litany of smaller signing proved to be effective and the 2013 Red Sox went on to win the World Series. Now, that may be the one of the best options on the table.
However, as Rosenthal mentions, the Dodgers will not be an option to dump the team’s unwanted salary like they were three years ago. Especially considering the fact that they’re familiar with Ramirez, since he spent over two years with them from mid-2012 through 2014.
While the Giants just may welcome Sandoval, affectionately known as “Panda” back to the Bay Area, the team currently has no need or spot open for him. And as Rosenthal mentioned, Sandoval’s comments about feeling disrespected with the teams contract offer in the offseason partnered with him saying he only misses two people from the team will not help him.
Yet, despite both players obvious shortcomings, both players would likely draw interest around the league, especially if the Red Sox threw in cash to facilitate a trade. Ramirez can still swing the bat and provide a team with pop from the right side of the plate. As for Sandoval, a switch hitting third baseman with postseason success is an attractive option as well.
One thing that needs to be clear is that the struggles the team has experienced are not just the fault of the two aforementioned men. A starting pitching staff mired with injuries and home runs tendencies, a shaky bullpen and drama surrounding an aging David Ortiz are all factors playing into a potentially disastrous 2015.
But once again, much like three years ago, giving big contracts to players with obvious shortcomings is not working out and before both players stints reach a tumultuous level, perhaps it would be best to restart, rather than regret.
[Image via Getty Images]