Boston Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez wants to be part of DH rotation

Jul 30, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez hits a RBI single against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning during the baseball game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 30, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez hits a RBI single against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning during the baseball game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

While Hanley Ramirez is willing to play whatever role the Boston Red Sox ask of him, he suggests that sharing the DH role is what’s best for everyone.

Hanley Ramirez has some ideas on how the Boston Red Sox can replace the retiring David Ortiz at the designated hitter position.

Appearing at Ortiz’s Celebrity Classic golf tournament in the Dominican Republic, Ramirez revealed to reporters that he would like to see more time in the DH role this year.

A year ago Ramirez was coming off of a disastrous first season in Boston in which he battled injuries, struggles at the plate and criticism over a misguided experiment to transition him to left field. The Red Sox converted him back to the infield this year, where he found a home at first base. While Ramirez wasn’t earning any votes for the Gold Glove Award, the position change went much smoother this time as he managed to exceed expectations by becoming a passable first baseman.

Finding a comfort zone on the field led to improved production at the plate. Ramirez bounced back in 2016 by smashing 30 home runs, driving in 111 RBI and posting an .866 OPS.

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It had long been assumed that the defensively challenged Ramirez would become the heir apparent to Ortiz’s DH role, but after seeing him adapt rather quickly to first base many are now wondering if he can stick at the position to allow the Red Sox to target a middle-of-the-order slugger to replace Ortiz.

Ramirez has a different plan. He’s not abandoning first base, making it clear that he’s willing to play the position as often as the team asks of him. However, he believes the best solution is to allow he and some of his teammates to rotate through the DH spot to help keep players fresh.

Big Papi himself echoed those sentiments, explaining that it would benefit the team to allow Ramirez to get some additional rest throughout the season by spending some of his time at DH.

"“Hanley will be good if they use him at first and give him a day between as the DH. That will be good for him,” said Ortiz.”"

Of course, Ortiz still continues to advocate for the Red Sox to sign Edwin Encarnacion to take his place in the middle of the lineup. Perhaps he envisions a scenario in which Ramirez and Encarnacion take turns switching between first base and DH, but that dream is becoming more unlikely by the day.

The Red Sox insist that if they dip into the free agent market to find another bat then they are only looking at short-term options and they aren’t going to splurge on a high-priced player that may subject them to the more draconian luxury tax penalties in the recently agreed upon collective bargaining agreement.

If the Red Sox follow Ramirez’s advice then there may not be a need to add another bat. Losing a player the caliber of Ortiz certainly hurts and no player can replace his production, but a collaborative effort from a number of players could make up a significant portion of it. Boston had by far the best offense in the majors this year and they’ll remain a powerhouse even with Ortiz out of the picture.

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Ramirez will still see time in the field, but when it’s his turn to DH the team still has other options to cover first. Travis Shaw can slide across the diamond to man the position while Brock Holt covers third, or perhaps even a healthy, slimmed down Pablo Sandoval. Eventually top prospect Yoan Moncada will be ready to take over the hot corner, giving the Red Sox even more options to work with.

When Han-Ram isn’t filling the DH spot there are a number of ways that manager John Farrell can handle the position. If Sandoval proves capable of contributing, he could see time there. Chris Young could use the spot to get into the lineup against lefties without having to bench one of the star trio the Red Sox are deploying in the outfield. The DH role could be an opportunity to find room for Blake Swihart to get at-bats if he doesn’t win the backup catcher spot. Farrell can mix and match based on matchups to ensure the best lineup is assembled for each game.

Having a player with the versatility of Holt certainly helps, as he can fill in at virtually any position while allowing the regular starter to get a half-day off as the DH.

Most American League teams have moved away from having a primary DH. The Red Sox have stuck by this method for over a dozen years because they had an all-time great in Ortiz, but now that he’s gone the team would prefer to have a more flexible roster. Rotating players through the position can be a way that the regular starters can get a day off in the field without taking their bat out of the lineup.

If one of the more common issues leading to injuries is fatigue then it benefits the team to keep everyone as fresh as possible through the grueling 162 game schedule without diluting the lineup too often.

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The Red Sox don’t need to spend a truck load of money on a free agent to stick in the DH spot. They already have plenty of options for how they can utilize that role and if Ramirez gets his way he’ll be one of the beneficiaries of that plan.