Red Sox Should Care More About 1st Base For 2017


While looking for a free agent pitcher, the Boston Red Sox may miss the chance to solidify the first base & designated hitter roles for 2017.

It’s no secret that the Boston Red Sox have a number of holes to fill this offseason. The addition of Craig Kimbrel will likely sure up the bullpen, at least much more than it was in 2015. The three young players in the outfield should blossom even more next season, while possibly joined by another rising prospect in a year or two. The biggest issues lay with the need for an ace pitcher in the starting rotation and the two most expensive disappointments last season, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

While Sandoval may be able to recover former glory by at least passing by a gym in his car, with players like Travis Shaw and Brock Holt being able to replace him at third base, Ramirez may be a whole other story at first base.

The move would be the third defensive position that the big-name hitter has played in two seasons. After injuries made many experts to believe that Han-Ram’s days as a shortstop were over, he was moved to left field once arriving in Boston. Apparently, left field is much harder to play than was expected, considering Hanley barely put much time into practicing the position in spring training. With numerous mistakes and even more injuries, Ramirez has been assigned to playing first base in 2016, a key role in the infield that gets overlooked.

Well, it’s not like the Red Sox have anywhere else to put him next season. The face of the franchise David Ortiz has decided to play another year before he officially retires, keeping the designated hitter position away from the ever-ailing Ramirez. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported about another avenue rejected: “We asked five GMs: Would you take Ramirez if at least half his salary were paid? All five said no. Maybe we didn’t ask the right ones.”

However, Cafardo discussed yet one more option that maybe the Red Sox have not considered as much as they should have already: “The [St. Louis] Cardinals and Red Sox are seen as the best fits for Chris Davis. Both need power. With David Ortiz retiring at the end of next season, Davis would be a nice longer-term replacement than, say, Hanley Ramirez.”

Instead of replacing Ortiz at the DH spot, why can’t Davis be the long-term replacement at first base and Ramirez can be the new DH?

Money could be a major concern, especially when the sentiment around Boston has been to use any money available to pay for an ace pitcher. Yet, if it were possible to do both, how would the Davis-Ramirez option look for the next two years?

Let’s face it, at another $68.2 million until 2019, Ramirez is going nowhere. He can’t play the outfield without getting hurt. He can’t play the left side of the infield without getting injured. Is he the answer to the pitching woes? Nope. So if not first base, the only place that Han-Ram can go is the DH position. Besides, he was brought in for his power in the first place.

Before leaving the Los Angeles Dodgers for Massachusetts, Ramirez hit 13 home runs and 71 RBIs with a .448 slugging percentage. Even in his darkest hour in Boston, he slugged at .426 for 19 homers and 53 RBIs in 105 games. If Ramirez could just stick to hitting, and not left-field foul walls, he could stay healthy enough to see his batting average and offensive production improve.

Davis, on the other hand, is only 29 years old and in the prime of his career. After a coming-out party in 2013, when he crushed 53 home runs and 138 RBIs in 160 games, he suffered a setback in 2014 of 26 homers and 72 RBIs and a 25-game suspension  for amphetamines. Almost as if a response, Davis’ bat was on fire once again in 2015, smashing 47 homers and 117 RBIs with a Hulk-like .562 slugging percentage. Those numbers made him the top offensive first baseman in the major leagues.

Having Davis at first base would also not be the hardship that Ramirez would be for Boston. While Ramirez would still be learning the position, Davis posted a .997 fielding percentage which was tied for the best in the majors at the position. In 938 plays made this season, Davis made only three errors.

If money wasn’t a problem, there would be only one hurdle left: the fact that it would be 2016, not 2017.

Next season, if Davis was acquired, there would be three big hitters but only two roles to fill. And, it’s not like the Red Sox are going to ask Ortiz to sit on the bench in his last year with the club. He was the offensive leader of the team in 2015 with a slash line of .273/.360/.553 that helped him crank 37 homers and 108 RBIs.

The Red Sox could make the move to buy Davis if they planned to increase their power for 2017, yet it implies that Ramirez would have to eat much of 2016 on the bench if that were to happen. The Red Sox could have a great combination of power in 2017, but they would have to suck it up for the year in between. Having millions and millions of dollars sitting on the pine, virtually nowhere to play, could be a public-relations nightmare, especially if Ramirez put up a stink, which he undoubtedly would do if it were to happen.

If only the future was now, the Davis-Ramirez tandem would have been a lot of fun to watch. If both players hit to their potential when both were healthy, Fenway Park could have been a launching pad to the cheers of Red Sox Nation. But it’s not going to be 2017 next season; it’s 2016. It’s still Ortiz at the helm. It’s still Ramirez who may sink or swim at first base, instead of Davis. No trade for Ramirez in sight. It’s still fun to dream, though.