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Big-Spending Boston Red Sox Aiming To Put Themselves In AL East Driver’s Seat

Sean Hartnett

Sean Hartnett has covered the New York Rangers and the NHL for WFAN.com since 2011. He has covered two Stanley Cup Finals. Sean now contributes to XNSports’ NHL and general sports coverage. He devotes far too much of his free time watching Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns. Sean can be reached via Twitter @HartnettHockey.

The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a stunning winter spending spree. Following a 71-91 last-place finish, the Red Sox are arming themselves with the kind of weaponry that should make them favorites to win the AL East in 2015.

Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are reportedly on their way to Boston on five-year contracts worth close to $200 million.

According to Fox Sports baseball insider Ken Rosenthal, the Red Sox are finalizing a five-year contract worth roughly $90 million with Ramirez.

Ramirez will turn 31 in December. By re-joining the Red Sox, Ramirez’s career will have come full circle. He was originally dealt to the Florida Marlins as the centerpiece of a high-profile trade that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Fenway in 2005.

Concerns about Ramirez’s declining defense at shortstop and a multitude of injuries clearly haven’t scared the Red Sox off. A move to left field is a strong possibility. In his final season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the veteran shortstop batted .283 with 13 home runs and 71 RBI in 128 games.

Ramirez’s lifetime slash line is .300/.373./.500. He could return to an elite power hitting form by taking aim at Fenway’s Green Monster. Ramirez earned Silver Slugger awards in 2008 and 2009. He was also the NL’s runs scored leader and a 30-30 player in 2008.

According to CBS baseball insider Jon Heyman, Sandoval and the Red Sox are wrapping up a five-year deal worth roughly $100 million.

Last season, the 28-year-old slugger batted .279 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI. The switch-hitting third baseman nicknamed “Kung-Fu Panda” is a lifetime .294 batter.

Sandoval has established himself as one of baseball’s elite postseason performers. Through 39 career playoff games, Sandoval is a .344 hitter with six home runs and 20 RBI. His career postseason on-base percentage is a robust .389.

This past playoffs, Sandoval shined on the World Series stage by batting .429 with four RBI and logged a .467 OBP. Sandoval is a three-time World Series champion and was named 2012 World Series MVP.

According to multiple reports, the Red Sox are among a slew of teams targeting free agent starter Jon Lester. Boston dealt Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to Oakland Athletics on the final day of the 2014 trade deadline for power hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive 2015 draft pick.

It’s possible that the Red Sox could shift Ramirez to the outfield, while placing Cespedes on the trade block as the Cuban outfielder is a year away from hitting free agency.

Lester was a 16-11 starter with a 2.46 ERA with a 1.102 WHIP in combined duty with Boston and Oakland last season. He struck out 220 batters in 219.2 innings pitched. Lester twice captured World Series titles with Boston in 2007 and 2013.

The 30-year-old could command a megadeal in excess of $150 million spread over six years. Boston is considered to be one of many teams interested in landing Lester. Rosenthal previously reported that “at least six” teams have expressed an interest in Lester.

While Boston has gotten off to a free-spending start, it’s unclear which route the rival New York Yankees will take this offseason. The Bombers may have been burned by too many bad contracts to seriously get involved in the Lester sweepstakes. New York’s main focus should be on upgrading the left side of their infield, which has been weakened by the retirement of inspirational captain Derek Jeter and plagued by the uncertainty and drama of Alex Rodriguez.

You never know with the Yankees. In past offseasons, the Bombers have led baseball insiders to believe they’re taking a conservative approach – then they strike like a cobra to capture the most high-profile free agents.

What’s clear for now is that the Red Sox have positioned themselves to be frontrunners to win the AL East in 2015 – and they’re not done spending yet.