After winning the World Series in 2013, Boston had an abysmal 2014 campaign. The Red Sox posted an embarrassing 71-91 record to finish last in the American League East. Boston’s ownership always opens its wallet after a disappointing season and this offseason has not been any different. Boston signed third baseman Pablo Sandoval and shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez, an ex-Boston prospect, is expected to play left field with his original club. Sandoval will be joined by catcher Christian Vazquez, first baseman Mike Napoli, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Boston’s outfield will be comprised of Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, and Shane Victorino. Here are five storylines to watch during Spring Training for the Red Sox:
Storyline #1: Welcome, Panda!
Boston added power and defense to its roster by signing Pablo Sandoval to a five-year, $95 million deal. Sandoval, a member of the San Francisco Giants’ World Series roster, hit 16 home runs and drove in 73 runs over 157 games last season. More impressively, Sandoval had 26 hits in 17 post-season games. Expect Sandoval to bring stability, power, and professionalism to Boston’s offense.
Storyline #2: Hanley and the Green Monster
Boston signed one of its former prospects, Hanley Ramirez, to play left field. After playing the last few seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ramirez returned to Boston on a four-year, $88 million contract. Ramirez has dealt with injuries over the last two seasons and hasn’t played a full-season since 2012, but that didn’t deter Boston from signing one of the better hitters in the league, even if he has to move away from shortstop. When healthy, Ramirez has 20+ home run potential. Monitor Ramirez’s healthy during camp as he begins transitioning to left field.
Storyline #3: Bounce Back for Pedroia?
A nagging wrist injury derailed Dustin Pedroia’s 2013 campaign. Pedroia played 135 games before undergoing season ending wrist surgery. Pedroia posted career lows in home runs (7), stolen bases (6), and batting average (.278). Pedroia declared himself fully healthy a few weeks ago, so his health and power will be something to monitor during the spring.
Storyline #4: Moving on From Lester
After trading Jon Lester to Oakland, Boston was unable to convince its former staff ace to re-sign as a free agent. Lester opted to sign a lucrative six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, so Boston will turn to Clay Buchholz to lead its rotation, which may be a problem. Buchholz went 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA over 28 starts last season and other pitchers behind him did not fare much better. There are still several key free agent pitchers available, so someone other than Buchholz may start on Opening Day. A potential trade for current Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels continues to be a rumored option.
Storyline #5: Big Papi’s Hall of Fame March
Entering his age-39 season, the affable Big Papi continues to defy Father Time by posting impressive numbers. Last season, Ortiz hit 35 home runs and drove in 104 runs over 142 games. Ortiz has 466 career home runs, so reaching 500 career home runs during 2015 is a possibility. Expect Ortiz to run into his fair share of fastballs with Boston’s new additions serving as his protection.
The average price of spring training Red Sox tickets is currently $99.57 on the secondary market.