MLB Standings Watch: What do Boston Red Sox do with Hanley Ramirez?


The Boston Red Sox have set out on journey to save their season, winning four of their last five games on a road trip that has taken them through Tampa Bay and on to Toronto. If Boston is to have any chance of competing in this division, it’s vital that they prove that they can win against AL East foes.

The road trip has gotten off to a good start, but it will get even better with the return of Hanley Ramirez on Wednesday. Or will it? Ramirez has missed a week after getting drilled on the hand by a line drive last Wednesday, but the Red Sox have been just fine without him.

Boston has weathered the storm of losing Ramirez’s bat by inserting Alejandro De Aza in his place. It seemed like a head-scratching move when the Red Sox confounded an already crowded outfield by claiming De Aza off waivers after he was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles, but he has become somewhat of a savior for this team in his brief time here.

De Aza is hitting a robust .318/.357/.606 with 3 home runs and 10 extra-base hits in 21 games with Boston. It’s a small sample size, but since his arrival he has essentially been the best hitter on the team.

Of course we can’t expect De Aza to keep this up, as his career profile suggests he is a streaky hitter. Nobody is suggesting that he is a better hitter than Ramirez. But he is a competent outfielder, which is more than we can say for Ramirez, who has been the worst defensive player at any position this season with -14 Defensive Runs Saved.

Despite leading the team in home runs and RBI, Ramirez’s defense has been so atrocious that he has actually provided negative value to the Red Sox, producing -0.2 WAR. It’s no coincidence that Red Sox pitchers have given up 3 runs or less in each of the last 5 games with De Aza in the outfield instead of Ramirez. We’ve seen a number of fly balls in the gap that De Aza has tracked down, while we can’t even envision Ramirez making those same plays.

Ramirez’s return will shift De Aza over to right field, bumping Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s elite glove from the outfield. With Shane Victorino‘s return on the horizon, he and De Aza will likely platoon in right field, with De Aza sitting against lefties.

As long as he’s healthy, Ramirez has to play, and unfortunately left field is the only place the Red Sox can fit him. Putting him on the trading block would be an admission that the team made a massive mistake inking him to a 4-year, $88 million deal only six months ago, but if the Red Sox can’t close the gap in the division race over the next few weeks, perhaps it will be time for them to own up to that mistake.

AL East Standings

(American League team gaining momentum)

Los Angeles Angels: While the Angels sit 4 games back of the division leading Astros, they have climbed within striking distance and are only half a game back of a Wild Card spot. Mike Trout continues to do Mike Trout things, as the reigning MVP has moved up into a tie for the league lead with 4.8 WAR. He’s also on pace to set a new career-high in home runs, mashing 20 already, which ranks second in the league.

More from Red Sox News

As great as Trout has been, the Angels are on the rise in large part due to the resurgence of Albert Pujols. There was a time before we ever heard of Trout when Pujols was considered the best hitter on the planet. The 35-year old may not be the player he once was, but he has spent the last month trying to convince us that he is. Pujols hit .303/.395/.737 with 13 home runs and 26 RBI in the month of June. This scorching stretch has moved him into the league lead in home runs, which means the Angels now boast the top two power hitters in the league.

The Angels join the New York Yankees as the only teams that can claim having two hitters with an OPS over .890, yet L.A. is only 12th in the league in runs scored this season. Pujols and Trout are carrying the Angels, but they will need others in the lineup to step up if they want to make the playoffs. This could be a team looking to add another bat at the trade deadline.

(American League team that is struggling)

New York Yankees: Losing 7 of their last 10 games hasn’t been as costly as you might think, given that the Yankees play in the AL East where the last place Red Sox are the only team in the division without a losing streak of at least 2 games.

More from BoSox Injection

Still, it’s not a trend that New York can be thrilled with. The Yankees pitching staff had a league worst 4.48 ERA in the month of June. Masahiro Tanaka‘s return from injury gave the rotation a boost, but in his last two starts he’s been knocked around for 11 runs over 10.0 innings. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi all had ERA’s north of 5.40 last month.

Even their loaded bullpen hasn’t been immune to recent struggles. With Andrew Miller sidelined with a forearm injury for the past few weeks, Dellin Betances has stepped into the closer role. Betances was flawless through the first two months, making it through May without surrendering an earned run. While he has yet to blow a save opportunity since taking over for Miller, he coughed up 5 runs in June.

Miller should return before the All-Star break and Ivan Nova has joined the rotation after being sidelined for the past 14 months with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow. The reinforcements will help steady this struggling staff, but the Yankees could still use an upgrade in the rotation. Expect them to show interest in any top of the rotation starter that becomes available this month.

Playoff Outlook
(Division leaders and teams holding a Wild Card spot in the American League)

AL East: Baltimore Orioles (41-36)
AL Central: Kansas City Royals (44-30)
AL West: Houston Astros (46-34)
Wild Card: Minnesota Twins (41-36)
Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays (42-37)