By James Galvin
December is a great time of the year for a sports fan, because there are so many options to choose from. The NBA and NHL seasons are picking up, while the NFL playoff chase is becoming closer by the week, and even college sports like football and basketball are drawing nightly attention.
There is a forgotten piece to this December Sports Pie, and that’s MLB Free Agency. Of course, it would be hard for a fan of the Boston Red Sox (specifically this offseason) to not know free agency is in full swing. The Red Sox (by far) have made the biggest splash in free agency this season signing two major players to bolster their lineup.
The Red Sox signed the most sought-after third baseman on the free agent market this offseason in Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval has played his entire career (up to this point) with the San Francisco Giants where he has won three World Series Championships. Sandoval (nicknamed ‘Kung Fu Panda’) will no doubt be a merchandise monster for the Red Sox this season, but the question baseball fans want to know is, will he deliver?
Sandoval is most well known for his weight issues. For someone who plays an athletic position in baseball, Sandoval is very much overweight. However, it hasn’t seemed to cause him any problems in his play up to this point in his career. It is worth noting that Sandoval is close to turning 29, and will spend the majority of his 5 year contract with the Red Sox in his 30’s.
It will also be worth watching how Sandoval makes the transition into the American League, since he has hit in the National League with the Giants only up to this point. The recent past gives mixed results as someone like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder have struggled making the transition, but a guy like Miguel Cabrera has had no trouble hitting for the Detroit Tigers in the American League.
The other big name the Red Sox signed this offseason was shortstop/third baseman Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez actually was brought up in the Red Sox minor league system before being traded away nine years ago in a deal that gave the Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett. Ramirez is officially making his Red Sox return, this time with nine years of MLB experience under his belt.
While no doubt Ramirez is in better physical shape than Sandoval, and has expressed an interest in playing ‘whatever position the Red Sox’ need, Ramirez doesn’t have the greatest reputation around the league. He has been known to ‘quit’ or ‘not take the game seriously’ if his team starts to struggle. That could be a problem (especially early on) for Ramirez as the Red Sox continue to struggle to solidify their starting rotation.
Speaking of which, Jon Lester remains on the free agent market, and the Red Sox remain one of the last remaining teams interested in Lester. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Chicago Cubs have offered Lester the most money, with the Red Sox a close second. Lester is set to meet with the San Francisco Giants soon, and it is widely believed they will go ‘all in’ for Lester in order to get a small revenge on Boston for signing Sandoval.
The Red Sox remain the favorites in the Lester market, and the two big hitters they have signed might be enough to convince Lester to rejoin the team, as the Red Sox are in a much better environment for Lester to “win now” compared to the Cubs. However, nothing is guaranteed in free agency, and this official “Lester Watch” is something Boston fans will have to consider when they look at all of their December Sports options.
James Galvin is a Comment staff writer.