Pablo Sandoval

Rumors: Lester, Bogaerts, Hamels

Lester

Big Papi would love to welcome home Jon Lester.

 

Arguably, only the 1977 album “Rumors”, Fleetwood Mac’s greatest (in sales) album, was more entertaining and talked about than baseball’s hot stove. Believing the validity of MLB rumors is only slightly more dicey than the relationships in one of rock and roll’s longest lasting quintets.

The Boston Red Sox had a big day on Monday, signing infielders Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. One would assume that meant shortstop Xander Bogaerts would be used as part of a package to obtain a front line starter. But two team sources told the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham that Bogaerts is still considered the team’s starting shortstop. That would mean a position switch for Ramirez. Do you buy that?

With Dustin Pedroia entrenched at second base, it would mean Ramirez would move to the outfield. Yoenis Cespedes is in left field with Rusney Castillo in center.  Boston has right fielder Shane Victorino under contract for one more season (at $13MM). With David Ortiz at DH, something has to give.

Despite adding an average of $41MM over the next four years (Only Sandoval has a guaranteed 5th year), Abraham reported that the Red Sox are also said to still be in play on their former ace Jon Lester.  With the Sox going nowhere this past season, the team dealt Lester to the Oakland A’s  for the slugging Cespedes.

Lester made $13MM last season and is likely to land at least a five year deal that tops $20MM per season. Do you buy that Boston can still afford that?

It’s possible Lester will give the Sox, for whom he played with for parts of nine seasons, a hometown discount. But this is a chance for Lester, who turns 30 in January, to land the biggest deal of his career and one of the largest in baseball. (The Yankees truly are crazy if they are not in on trying to signing him.) Boston, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, has also had serious talks with the Philadelphia Phillies for lefty Cole Hamels. (The Dodgers are reportedly also in on the fray.)

Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. – how does this man keep his job? – is trying to unload salary. He failed to move anyone making substantial money at last season’s deadline – Hamels, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee (who injured his elbow during the post-deadline waiver period) – and needs to now. Hamels is owed $90MM over the next four years and has a possible 5th year (2019) at $24MM (vesting) or $20MM (team option).

Despite the claim by team sources, Bogaerts would most certainly have to be part of any package sent to Philadelphia along with one of Boston’s top catching prospects, Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez. It would all depend on how much money is picked up by Boston.

The feeling here is that if the Red Sox can’t land Hamels or bring back Lester at a discount, they’ll try to sign a cheaper option like James Shields.

There is action going on elsewhere in the AL East. Toronto, who already overpaid catcher Russell Martin, is said to be pursuing the Cincinnati Reds versatile outfielder, Jay Bruce.

Blue Jays are, however, working to add a left-handed bat to their lineup. One name they are talking about: Jay Bruce.

The left-handed hitting Bruce would be a great addition to any team. The Reds would have to be blown away by any offer though, since the 27-year old outfielder is under contract for the next two seasons at an average of $12.25MM and has a team option for a third year at a minuscule $13MM.

The outfielder is coming off a miserable year in which he hit just .217 and had a sub-.700 OPS. But in the three years prior to that, Bruce topped 30 home runs and averaged 101 RBI.

UPDATE – ComcastSportsNet’s (CSNChicago.com) Dave Kaplan is reporting that the Chicago Cubs have made a “significant offer” of six years and a salary figure “north of $135MM” to free agent pitcher Jon Lester.

Signing: Kung Fu Panda Headed to Boston

Pablo-Sandoval[1]

Pablo Sandoval and the Giants were number one, three times.

On the heels of the rumored Hanley Ramirez signing by Boston, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman is reporting that the Red Sox have signed third baseman Pablo Sandoval to a five year, $100MM contract.

The Red Sox went from World Series winners in 2013 to last place in the AL East this past Summer. One of the biggest concerns was team defense, something the Red Sox have prided themselves on over the years. With shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Will Middlebrooks struggling on defense and offense, GM Ben Cherington has made a big splash by replacing the left side of his infield.

Sandoval had been rumored for over a week to be headed to Boston and it appears to now be true. The San Francisco Giants were thought to still be in the race to resign him, but with concerns about his conditioning and diluted offense, they had decided they wouldn’t overpay Sandoval just to keep him.

The Red Sox are taking a gamble for sure – while his defense has been excellent – the big guy’s offense does not merit a $20MM per year contract. (The Red Sox have definitely followed the Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury signing model – overpay to blow away the competition.) Over the last three regular seasons, Sandoval’s OPS has been .789, .758, and .739. His slugging pct. went from .447 in 2012 to .415 this past season. He will be a decent addition for getting on base – he hit around .280 with 40 walks the last three years – but as a left-handed hitter he’ll need to adjust to Fenway Park.

The 28-year old was signed by the Giants in 2003 and made his debut five years later. He was on all three Giants’ World Series championships in the last five seasons. He’s 20-44 (.455) in the last two World Series combined with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 11 games.

The two signings by Boston could mean they won’t be able to bring back their ace Jon Lester. The left-hander was dealt to Oakland at the trade deadline this past season. Boston is more likely to turn to a less expensive alternative such as James Shields or Ervin Santana to help fill out their starting rotation.

While Middlebrooks does not have much trade value, Boston will likely deal Bogaerts to add some pitching.