Inbox: What will Red Sox do with Panda?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from fans

Inbox: What will Red Sox do with Panda?

What do the Red Sox plan to do with Pablo Sandoval? I can't see trading him given the massive contract they gave him.
-- Chris R., Wellesley, Mass.

The plan is to evaluate Sandoval in Spring Training and give him a chance to win his job back. Travis Shaw had a chance to claim third base, but was inconsistent in his first full season. For the second straight year, you should see a full-fledged competition at the hot corner. By all accounts, Sandoval has worked extremely hard during his rehab from left shoulder surgery. By February and March, we will see if there's some payoff. I don't believe the Red Sox will trade Sandoval at this point because his value is low right now.

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Do you see the Red Sox trading for an ace pitcher this offseason? What would they need to give up?
-- Kieran H., Melbourne, Australia

The Red Sox would have to give up top prospects and probably a Major League regular or two. With quite a bit of money invested in the top of the rotation, my feeling is that they won't make a major addition during the offseason. Perhaps July would be more likely, depending on how the pennant race shapes up.

Any chance of trading Jackie Bradley Jr. for a Mets pitcher? It would fill a need for both teams. Hopefully they could get Steven Matz back.
-- Rutherford, N.J.

In Bradley, you have a perennial Rawlings Gold Glove Award candidate at a premium position, not to mention someone who hit 26 homers in his first full season. The one thing Bradley needs to improve is his offensive consistency. That said, I think it would be premature to trade him at this point unless you were getting a front-line starter back.

Bradley Jr.'s arm strength

There doesn't appear to be clarity on the catching position. I know Sandy Leon had a surprise breakout at the plate last season, but with Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, would they hand Leon the starting job?
-- Bennet G., Camden, Maine

Leon is a slight favorite heading into Spring Training, but I do believe Swihart and Vazquez will have every chance to prove their worth and earn more playing time. Leon is going to need to prove he can maintain his level of play from last season, particularly at the plate, where he was showing decline in the latter months. Was this fatigue that many catchers go through late in a season, or a sign that maybe he was hitting over his head earlier in the year? Once that question is answered, we'll have a better idea of which way the catching position will go for the Red Sox.

What happened to Vazquez? It seems he's fallen off the Sox's plans for the future.
-- Steve L., Middletown, Conn.

The Tommy John surgery Vazquez underwent in 2015 obviously has slowed his development. Nobody questions his skills behind the plate. However, Vazquez has yet to prove he can hit enough to be a primary catcher in the Major Leagues. This will be a crucial year for him to prove that, as he is out of Minor League options.

Will the Red Sox trade Clay Buchholz?
-- Joshua F., Mililani, Hawaii

With the price of starting pitching these days, Buchholz certainly has a tradeable contract. But at this point, I look at the situation as very similar to last season. The Red Sox didn't trade him because they weren't confident in their depth in the upper Minors. The only way I see Buchholz getting traded is if Henry Owens or Brian Johnson takes a big step forward.

Buchholz's six shutout innings

Do you think the rotation can succeed with three lefties?
-- Steve T., Coram, N.Y.

Three lefties is a lot for a team that plays 81 games a year at Fenway Park. But the bottom line is production. If David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz are all pitching effectively, it doesn't matter so much whether they throw from the right or left side.

Do you think Hanley Ramirez has found a long-term home at first base? He made a lot of amazing defensive plays there, especially during the stretch run in September, plus his bat was solid pretty much all year.
-- Steve C., Albany, N.Y
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As long as Ramirez keeps hitting, it doesn't really matter whether he's playing first or serving as the designated hitter. But it is amazing how much he has resurrected his career in the span of a year. All you heard last offseason was how the Red Sox needed to trade Ramirez. Good thing they didn't. Boston has him under contract for two more years, and his bat will be important.

Statcast: Red Sox's longest HRs

What are the chances that David Ortiz will be elected to the Hall Of Fame on the first ballot?
-- Bill C., Cumberland, R.I.

When you combine Ortiz's regular-season numbers with his legendary feats in the postseason, I believe he has a great chance to be elected into the Hall of Fame. The one thing that might prevent Ortiz from getting in on the first ballot is the fact he was a DH for most of his career. Frank Thomas is the only current Hall of Famer who spent more than half of his career as a DH. I'm not saying I agree with this reason, but that is the precedent.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.