Another wild MLB offseason nears its end
By Peter Santo
This year’s Major League Baseball offseason has been filled with many big names switching via both free agency and trade. The so called “hot stove” of free agency has seen a frenzy of players heading to a new destination.
Some of the big names that have signed to a new team include SP Max Scherzer (Nationals), SP Jon Lester (Cubs), SS/OF Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox), 3B Pablo Sandoval (Red Sox), Victor Martinez (Tigers), Nelson Cruz (Mariners), and many more sluggers and aces.
Jon Lester finally ended the “Lester sweepstakes” by signing with the Chicago Cubs on a 6-year, $155 million dollar mega-deal. Lester’s average annual value ($25.8M/yr) falls behind only Dodgers’ stud and former Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw ($30.7M/yr).
Another ace that has a new city to call home this offseason is SP Max Scherzer, who will head to the nation’s capital on a massive 7-year, $210 million dollar deal. The 2013 AL Cy Young award winner leaves Detroit after posting a 3.52 ERA over 5 seasons with the Tigers.
The Red Sox, after losing out on arguably the best pitcher on the market in former Boston legend Lester, quickly began revamping a starting lineup that hit just .244 in 2014, good for 12th in the American League.
The Sox signed Hanley Ramirez to a 4-year, $88 million dollar deal, with a 5th year option at $22 million. They project Ramirez to be the team’s starting Left Fielder in 2015. Along with Ramirez, the Sox signed 3-time World Series champion “Kung-Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval to a 5-year, $95 million dollar deal, with a club option for 2020.
However the Red Sox also faced the task of improving a pitching staff that posted a dreadful 4.01 ERA as a staff in 2014. But the way General Manager Ben Cherington chose to build this new and improved pitching staff was not exactly the way most fans hoped he would.
After losing out on the top two pitchers on the market in Lester and Scherzer, Cherington chose to spread their AAV among multiple pitchers rather than using it to sign a surefire ace. To employ this strategy the Red Sox acquired Starting Pitchers Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson.
Cherington began by hitting the trade market and acquiring Miley from the Diamondbacks in exchange for young pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, as well as a player to be named later. Cherington then acquired Porcello from the Tigers in exchange for Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Finally he signed Masterson, who played for the red sox during the 08 and 09 seasons, to a 1-year deal.
While Masterson and Porcello have unimpressive career ERAs of 4.24 and 4.30 respectively, the Sox are hoping they can continue their recent form from recent when both posted ERAs under 3.50. Miley meanwhile boasts a solid 3.79 career ERA.
While none of these acquisitions featured the big names Sox fans were hoping for, they remain in line with the plan laid out by team ownership at the start of the offseason. Ownership has maintained throughout the offseason that they would not dish out big money and commit long term to pitchers in their 30s (Scherzer and Lester are both north of 30 years old).
One pitcher who surprisingly remains on the market is James Shields. Shields, who led the Royals to their first World Series appearance since 1985 this past season, has been rumored to be on the radars of numerous teams but still remains unsigned.
Only time will tell if the Red Sox would be willing to commit long term to a pitcher such as Shields, but he is AL East battle tested from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays and would be a good fit in Boston. With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report February 18th, Shields will need to find a new home quickly.
Mitch Canzano also contributed to this report