Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval aren't going anywhere. You probably knew this, even if you didn't want to admit it to yourself. Their 2015's were too disappointing, and they have too much money left on their contracts to be moved. There was always some measure of hope that Dave Dombrowski could figure something out, especially when the offseason began and all dreams are permitted, but now it's mid-December. Alternatives are vanishing, and at prices that suggest giving up Sandoval or Hanley wouldn't even be worth it to the Sox.
The last nails in the coffin that houses your dreams were driven in on Wednesday, when Mike Napoli signed a deal worth up to $10 million with the Indians to be their starting first baseman. Napoli scuffled to begin 2015 with the Red Sox, but from May 22 onward, hit .245/.347/.457, and was among the finalists for the Gold Glove at first base. At his age and with his potentially slowing bat, Napoli was a risk, but he was also one of the only options at first base that wasn't going to require a $175 million (or greater) commitment -- looking at you, Chris Davis.
The Sox even got in contact with Napoli, who signed on with the organization in 2013 and stuck around until he was dealt in August of this year to the Rangers for their playoff push. A platoon with Travis Shaw made sense in place of Ramirez at first, given Napoli's ability to smash lefties combined with his glove, and the fact he could likely take over full-time if Shaw failed to show up at the plate. Alas, a guaranteed starting gig with the Indians combined with an inability to move Ramirez kept this from occurring.
Another option that would have made sense is Adam Lind, but the Mariners already grabbed him from the Brewers. Now, the first base market is Davis -- again, not happening -- or... Pedro Alvarez? Chris Carter? A utility guy like Kelly Johnson? Suddenly, risking it with Ramirez at first base doesn't seem so terrible at this late stage, especially considering what it could potentially cost in both dollars and prospects to move him to one of the losers of the Davis sweepstakes.
Plus, the impending retirement of David Ortiz means the Red Sox already have a replacement on hand should Ramirez rebound at the plate. If they deal him and plug in a short-term solution who fails to take hold, suddenly, they're in need of two big bats next winter.
As for third base and Sandoval, the fact he was a coveted free agent a year ago means he could have been dealt somewhere with enough work. Whether that would have been worth the effort is the real question. Todd Frazier, who was traded to the White Sox in a three-team deal on Wednesday, essentially brought back Jose Peraza and two prospects the Dodgers thought they were upgrading on by making this move.
Peraza was ranked the number 54 prospect in the game by Baseball America entering 2015, and was at 38 according to MLB.com. Baseball Prospectus wasn't nearly as high on him, placing him at 92, but the 21-year-old did manage to make it all the way to the majors by year's end. While he didn't perform well there, it was just seven games, and again, he was 21.
Still, the prize for Frazier, a two-time all-star who has two years of team control remaining and 64 homers over the last two seasons, was a maybe top-50 prospect who was on the back-end of the top-100 for some before last season. His 2015 was good, but not exceptional or anything -- it wasn't a stock-raising affair. If that's what Frazier is bringing back in a power-starved game, what would it take to remove Sandoval from the roster? And who is going to replace him?
Should the Red Sox outfield already be set?
Dave Dombrowski said that the Red Sox will head into the season with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo as their starters, but should the team be looking at other options?
David Freese would be intriguing, but he's about the only one on the free agent market at third you can say that about. And, the Sox would still need to find a taker for Sandoval. Like with Hanley, at this point, it makes more sense to see if he can rebound under some new direction, because the cost of removing him is probably too great and the replacements aren't anymore exciting.
The unfortunate thing about 2015 for Ramirez and Sandoval is that the down years happened at the same time. Players have off seasons all the time, and come back strong in their follow-up. They find out what was wrong -- in Hanley's case, left field, a shoulder injury, and trying to go deep with every swing -- and attempt to fix it. Ramirez's problems -- and Sandoval's out-of-character sloppiness at third -- are fixable. Whether they will be fixed is another story, but they are candidates for fixing, at least, and their ceilings are higher than what the Red Sox can replace them with.
There just isn't much else out there, especially not after a busy Wednesday with Napoli and Frazier. So, if you haven't already admitted to yourself that the Sox are giving it another go with Hanley and Panda, now is the time. Just think back to this time last year, when the prospect of that was exciting rather than daunting. This time, it could turn out just fine, like it was supposed to all along.