Sports

Alex Speier

Can the Red Sox salvage Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval?

Apr 9, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) high fives left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) after scoring against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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Given their dismal performances this year, a central question confronting the Red Sox this offseason is whether Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are salvageable.

The Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval to a five-year, $95 million contract in the offseason as a response to what former GM Ben Cherington described as a two-year black hole at third base. The black hole hasn’t gone away.

Indeed, as Jason Mastrodonato notes, by Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement, Sandoval (-1.9 WAR), who is currently sidelined by an upper respiratory infection, now grades as the worst position player in the big leagues.

(Sandoval has a considerable lead in that category among all players with a qualifying number of plate appearances, as no one else has been worse than a -1.2 WAR, though he’s neck-and-neck with Victor Martinez and Hanley Ramirez for the worst WAR in the big leagues among 195 players with at least 400 plate appearances.)

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Given their dismal performances this year, a central question confronting the Sox this offseason is whether Sandoval and Ramirez are salvageable, and whether a meaningful uptick in performance might be possible next year after this year’s black-hole performances.

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For context: In the last five years, Ramirez and Sandoval would have two of the worst nine WARs since 2010. How did the players who posted the worst 10 position player WARs of the last five years (2010-14) perform the year after they cratered? Here’s a look.

In search of a bounce back
Worst position players WARs, 2010-14, and how those players performed the next year
Player Horrendous WAR Next year's WAR
Adam Dunn 2011: -2.9 2012: 2.0
Pedro Feliz 2010: -2.3 Out of majors
Matt Dominguez 2014: -2.2 Out of majors
Adeiny Hechavarria 2013: -2.2 2014: 0.2
Michael Young 2012: -2.0 2013: -0.6
Yuniesky Betancourt 2013: -1.9 Out of majors
Raul Ibanez 2011: -1.9 2012: 0.9
Kendrys Morales 2014: -1.8 2015: 2.1
Paul Konerko 2013: -1.8 2014: -1.2
Casey Kotchman 2010: -1.7 2011: 2.3
SOURCE: Baseball-reference

So, it’s certainly possible that Sandoval and Ramirez can return to productive levels, just as Morales, Dunn, and Kotchman did. Still, precedent suggests there’s no guarantee of a recovery by either player.

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@alexspeier.