My eight-year-old son JC—a baseball lifer in the truest sense—sits on the living room floor checking out stats on the back of his baseball cards and anxiously watching the names of MLB free agents that scroll across the bottom of the MLB Network’s hot stove cable transmission.
He darts up like a roman candle shooting into the night sky on the Fourth of July and shrieks, “ (Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop) Hanley Ramirez is a free agent? The Yankees have got to sign him. What? (San Francisco Giants third baseman) Kung Fu Panda Sandoval is a free agent too?"
"The Yankees should sign him too," he implores. "Their offense is terrible.“
Feeling like a dad who had to face his son after failing to show up for a promised trip to the circus, I replied, “The Yankees aren’t going to sign either one of them.”
“Why not?” JC cried. “It makes sense.”
That was the problem. One day this logical, sensical, elementary school-machine will cloud his sharp intuitions with the reality of financial plans and probably lower his ambitions at the realization that money doesn’t grow on trees – and definitely not out of daddy’s pockets.
At the same time, the words of an eight-year-old can be so prophetic. He had the right notion. Just the wrong team, but that’s understandable because he is a Yankees fan and he is bred to hate the Red Sox (although he doesn’t hate them he just knows he’s not supposed to like them).
MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds wants the credit for suggesting that Sandoval and Ramirez should sign as a package somewhere, but like my son JC, Reynolds thought their destination would be the Bronx.
Boston definitely beat the Yankees to the punch on this one and the late George Steinbrenner is probably doing the running man in his platinum-plated grave at the thought of being burned on two players who are not only elite performers, but two of MLB’s more charismatic baseballers.
It’s being reported by baseball sleuths Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal that Sandoval has signed a five-year deal with Boston that’s worth close to $100 million and Ramirez has also agreed to a deal in the $90 million range.
The Red Sox ranked last in MLB in third baseman batting average this season, so it makes sense for them to add the free-swinging Sandoval, who’s never seen a pitch he couldn’t get wood on. However, reports say the Giants' offer to retain the three-time WS champ was about $10 million less than what the Sox and Padres offered the chubby chopper. So, ultimately C.R.E.A.M. was the theme for Sandoval. Losing out on Kung Fu Panda is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a Giants squad who is in the midst of a dynasty and Pablo's been The Escobar of postseason pie-slinging. It was the best thing that could happen for a Padres team that needs a lot more than a .280 hitter who turns into George Brett in the postseason. The talent-ravaged squad needs a miracle and about 10 more Top 3 draft picks. That offer was for the fans. They knew they didn't have a shot.
Ramírez is looking for a reinvigoration. He signed with the Boston Red Sox as an International Free Agent in July 2000. And was rated by Baseball America as the #10 prospect before making his Major League debut on September 20, 2005 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He would only make two plate appearances for Boston that season before being traded to the Florida Marlins later that year.
After a decade run that has garnered him accolades such as the NL Rookie of the Year in 2006, a batting title in 2009, three All-star nods and a rare 30-30 season, Ramirez returns to Boston, with hopes of staying healthy.
Ramirez was constantly hobbled by injuries and impeded by an attitude that rubbed some LA fans, players and management the wrong way. He only played 278 games in three years with the Dodgers and some fans blame him for the squad’s inability to win a World Series despite spending more cash than an Arab Sheik to field a team full of all-stars.
The caveat in the deal is that Ramirez will be playing left field and dealing with the imposing and unpredictable Green Monster. This could pose a challenge for a kid that’s been playing infield since he was wrapping rocks in tape and hitting them with wood sticks in DR.
It makes sense for Ramirez to bounce from Dodgerstown. Although he’s sort of set in his ways—which makes the move to left field all the more surprising—his unreliable presence made him a victim of the LA numbers crunch.
BREAK DOWN TO BUILD IT UP
In 2012, the Red Sox were being suffocated by overpriced contracts, so they unloaded the truck on the The Dodgers, who completed the largest trade in franchise history, acquiring All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez,Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in a nine-player trade. In the process, LA took on more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary….and they haven't stopped spending.
For Boston, the main purpose of the blockbuster was to regain some financial flexibility. The Red Sox were more frugal with their free agent expenditures in a surprise 2013 World Series title run. They caught chemistry lightening in a bottle, Big Papi rediscovered "The Fountain of Youth" and they became baseball’s sentimental love children.
These high-priced signings signify a return to the old Red Sox way. If they prove to be successful, however, the moves of the past few years (from shedding salary to managerial changes) will be credited more heavily with putting the franchise in a position to be able to spend chips this offseason and actually be economically gravy as they approach 2020.
The Red Sox have $114.8 million tied up in contractual commitments this season. In 2015 it drops to $42.6 and in 2016 it recedes to $37.3 and by 2017 (as it stands right now) they should have a ton of financial flexibility with just $28.9 million owed in contracts.
Boston’s free agent focus spells the inevitable end of talented outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who joined Boston in the Jon Lester trade. There’s simply no room in the starting lineup for him and they still have pitching needs to fill.
This happens to be a pitching-rich free agent pool with established hurlers like Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmerman (Washington Nats) Mat Latos and Mike Leake in Cincy and Oakland’s Jeff Samardzjia and Scott Kazmir available. Big market squads breaking the bank on free agent signings is cyclical. When a team hits with the financial gamble, rings follow. When they miss, it sinks the franchise for a few. Boston smells blood in the AL East waters and they are sure to keep buying because it’s obviously their turn to do so.
The money train is rolling in MLB. Stay tuned for more lucrative free agent signings.