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Red Sox to pursue Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval for third base

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Who will be Boston's starting third baseman in 2015? The only thing that seems certain is that it won't be Will Middlebrooks.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox are in need of a third baseman, and seem to have two of the biggest names on the market in mind for the role in Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval:

There's been no shortage of connections made between Sandoval and Boston over the past month, but this is the first real acknowledgment that Headley is on the short list as well. This should come as no surprise, of course, based simply on the fact that he's one of the best players on the market at a position of need for the Red Sox, but it's good to have confirmation one way or another.

While Headley and Sandoval are both high-profile free agents, neither one is coming off their best season. Sandoval's line of .279/.324/.415 is decent given how many games he plays in unfriendly parks, but not even Petco can excuse the .229/.296/.355 figures Headley put up in his time with the Padres. Had he not produced a .371 OBP with the Yankees, Headley might be looking at a very different market this offseason, particularly since the mid-season trade leaves him free of a qualifying offer.

Still, for all that neither player matched the heights they established earlier in their careers, both are fine options at third in a vacuum. Even in their down years, they provided above average bats and above average defense--superlative in the case of Headley. But, as ever, the question comes down to money: how much will it take, and how much are they worth.

We've covered the math with Pablo Sandoval before, and frankly the numbers don't look all that good at the end of the day.

The situation with Headley is rather less certain. Where Sandoval's reputation has often seemed to outpace his performance, the opposite is true of Headley. Add in a less overtly impressive 2014 season and a lack of postseason heroics, and it's not hard to imagine Sandoval outearning Headley. The dream scenario of Headley looking for a one-year deal in hopes of landing a huge deal after a season in a more high-profile, high-offense ballpark may be too much to hope for, but a player who will be 31 in May isn't likely to land a contract as long as the 28-year-old Sandoval, even taking into account the latter's physical concerns.

Headley will not come cheap, even after a mediocre 2014 season, but he might well be the better player (the last few years seem to suggest it), and available on a more reasonable deal. There are no guarantees his market doesn't explode to the same heights as Sandoval's, but if there is a player who's likely to hit that sweet spot where the Red Sox are not simply willing, but eager to sign them to a market-value contract, Headley is most likely the one.

Heyman's mention of Aramis Ramirez seems more speculative at this moment than anything else, and it's hard to imagine the Red Sox are really all that gung-ho about the 36-year-old third baseman, but he does seem the logical fallback option should their other targets prove too expensive or simply decided to go elsewhere. It's entirely unfair to call Ramirez that A.J. Pierzynski option--he's a better player than that--but the idea is similar. If all else fails, Ramirez is likely well within the Red Sox' means and will give them a body to put ahead of Will Middlebrooks in the depth chart.