As much as Boston Red Sox fans would like to wash their hands of Hanley Ramirez, the front office isn’t prepared to cut their losses with him yet.
Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made some significant moves to reshape a team that has finished at the bottom of the division in each of the last two seasons. Finding a top of the rotation starter, a new closer and adding depth to the outfield are among the primary objectives that he can already cross off his list, but one move that Red Sox fans are still eagerly awaiting is rectifying one of the last mistakes made by his predecessor.
To the dismay of the Fenway Faithful, it doesn’t appear that Hanley Ramirez is going anywhere this winter. Last season’s headline grabbing free agent acquisition is here to stay, at least for now.
The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato reports that even after the departure of former general manager Ben Cherington, there are still those in the Red Sox front office that believe Ramirez will rebound in 2016.
"“The Red Sox remain intent on sticking with him, with one club source telling the Herald this weekend that the Sox aren’t going to trade Ramirez and the expectation is that he’ll be the team’s first baseman,” writes Mastrodonato. “The team doesn’t appear to be interested in any free agents at the position.”"
Ramirez is coming off of the worst season of his career, having performed at below replacement level value in producing a dreadful -1.3 WAR. Missing a significant chunk of games due to injury is nothing new for the oft-injured slugger, but the shoulder injury he suffered after crashing into a wall early in the season effected his productiveness when he did manage to stay in the lineup the rest of the season.
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After making an excellent first impression by blasting 10 home runs in the month of April, Ramirez would only hit only 9 more homers the rest of the way. He finished with an underwhelming .717 OPS and career-low 90 OPS+. It’s been well documented that the experiment of moving him to left field was a disaster of monumental proportions, but nobody expected him to challenge for a Gold Glove out there anyway. The bigger disappointment is that his bat wasn’t able to make up for the limitations of his glove.
Now the Red Sox will shift Ramirez to yet another new position in hopes of salvaging some value from their $88 million investment. While this could be another horror show waiting to develop in the infield, the Red Sox have little to lose by giving him a shot. If they dump him now they risk watching him regain his All-Star caliber production in another uniform, while they remain on the hook for roughly half his remaining salary. There is no chance of any team taking on his full contract in a deal, plus by selling low they forfeit the opportunity to get a decent haul of prospects in return.
There’s also the issue of finding someone to take Ramirez off their hands. There were rumored to be a few American League teams looking to kick the tires on Ramirez as a potential DH option, but it seems at least one of those options is off the table. The Baltimore Orioles were considered to be interested in the potential power of his bat to replace Chris Davis if he leaves in free agency, but sources have told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that the Baltimore Orioles have no interest.
The Red Sox are banking on Ramirez’s experience as an infielder to provide a smoother transition to first base than his adventures in the outfield turned out to be. As long as he doesn’t embarrass himself at first base then he should stick in the lineup long enough to find out if his bat can restore some trade value. If he manages to regain anything resembling his peak form at the plate, perhaps the Red Sox will even consider hanging on to him, knowing they can move him to DH in 2017.
If you are looking for reasons to be optimistic about a bounce back season, Ramirez says that he no longer has any pain in the shoulder that plagued him through most of the season and he is intent on dropping a few pounds to improve his agility. To his credit, he seems to want to be here in Boston, telling reporters at David Ortiz‘s charity event in the Dominican Republic last week that he cried when the franchise that drafted him traded him away as a prospect back in 2005.
A lot of fans in Red Sox Nation are ready to give up on Ramirez after one awful season, but the front office apparently isn’t quite ready to cut their losses. That may change before next season’s trade deadline if Ramirez fails again, but for now they are prepared to give him one last shot.