BOSTON — Pablo Sandoval checked all the boxes.
Sandoval stood out as general manager Ben Cherington and the Red Sox front office developed an offseason strategy shortly after the club wrapped up its disappointing 2014 season. Boston wanted to do everything it could to land the 28-year-old third baseman, who perfectly fit the organization’s needs.
“He’s a player in the prime of his career,” Cherington said Tuesday at a press conference at Fenway Park to introduce Sandoval, who agreed to a five-year contract with Boston that also includes a club option for a sixth season. “He’s able to play a tough position at a high level and is a very good hitter at that position, including in moments when it counts the most. On top of everything else, he just popped out as an obvious guy for us as we went through our offseason planning in October (and) trying to formulate a strategy.
The Red Sox were extremely aggressive in their courtship of Sandoval, realizing it would be difficult for him to leave San Francisco after a very successful seven-year tenure in which the Giants won three World Series titles. Sandoval ultimately decided to embrace the new challenge of playing in Boston, and the Red Sox understandably are thrilled.
“Fitting the lineup, fitting the team and the clubhouse and the market. We feel like he’s coming from a place that has some similarities to Boston,” Cherington said. “Everything about him that we learned through our research suggested that this is a guy who loves the game, loves to play, loves to win, and so we want that type of person in our clubhouse.
“Digging a little deeper, Pablo’s made himself a really good defensive third baseman. His approach we believe fits the ballpark well, as mentioned before. This is a line drive hitter, he puts the ball in play a lot, hits a lot of balls hard to left and left-center. Just a lot about him that appealed to us.”
The Red Sox definitely needed to shore up third base, as it’s been a black hole the last two seasons. Will Middlebrooks still has plenty of offensive upside, but it simply would have been too much of a gamble to start the 2015 season with him manning the hot corner on a full-time basis.
Enter Sandoval, who is coming off a year in which he hit .279 with 16 homers, 73 RBIs and a .739 OPS in 157 regular-season games. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday he’s not sure where exactly Sandoval will fit into the batting order, especially with other moves likely forthcoming, but Boston’s offense should be a better unit in 2015, thanks to the additions the team has made dating to July.
“He’s coming from a successful organization, a successful franchise, that’s played at the highest level,” Farrell said of Sandoval’s transition to Boston. “Obviously, that playing career speaks for itself. But getting to know the person throughout this, that’s where we feel he’ll be embraced by the fans here. I think he’s going to embrace the challenge in and of itself. We feel this is a very good fit on a number of levels.”
The Red Sox added additional firepower this week in the form of Hanley Ramirez, who is expected to move off his natural position (shortstop) and play left field for Boston. Yoenis Cespedes’ future thus is unclear, but the Sox sure aren’t messing around in their attempt to field a contender next season.
“Ben has done a great job of being able to add these two players prior to Thanksgiving,” Farrell said. “What remains throughout the offseason is still an interesting proposition. But when you consider Hanley in left, Yoenis in either center or right, you begin to look at power bats in a number of different positions.
“This is a really deep lineup as we stand today.”
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