Hanley Ramirez remains confident in his ability to hit and trusts the Boston Red Sox will find a spot for him in the lineup as long as he performs.
With everyone focused on the negotiations with J.D. Martinez, it’s easy to lose sight of the ripple effects that signing the prized free agent would have on the rest of the Boston Red Sox roster. No player stands to lose more than Hanley Ramirez.
Boston’s interest in Martinez is exclusively for what he can do with a bat, not his glove. An outfielder by trade, Martinez’ defensive limitations would relegate him primarily to the designated hitter role if he were to sign with a Red Sox team that boasts arguably the best defensive outfield trio in baseball.
With Martinez taking the majority of the at-bats in the DH spot, Ramirez would be left to fight for playing time at first base with the freshly re-signed Mitch Moreland. The career splits for both players suggests they could make a productive right and left-handed combination. While this scenario may be in Boston’s best interest, a platoon role would hinder Ramirez’ chances to reach the 497 plate appearances he needs in order for his $22 million option in 2019 to vest.
The Red Sox signing Martinez wouldn’t merely cost Ramirez playing time. It may very well cost him that option year while reducing what he could potentially earn on his next contract. Yet despite these risks, Ramirez doesn’t seem worried.
During the Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods on Saturday, Ramirez told reporters he’s not concerned that the potential addition of Martinez could cost him playing time.
"“You’ve just got to hit,” said Ramirez, per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith. “If you hit, you’re going to play. It don’t matter. It’s all you’ve got to do. You’ve got to produce.“I know I can hit,” he added. “It’s not going to affect me. You’ve just got to be a good teammate and be ready to go whenever they need you.”"
Ramirez certainly has a lengthy track record that proves he can hit but he didn’t do much of it last season. His .242 batting average was a career low and his .750 OPS was over 100 points lower than his career rate. A year after delivering the first 30 homer, 100 RBI season of his career, Ramirez smacked only 23 home runs and drove in 62.
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The Red Sox will need a lot more than that out of Ramirez if he’s going to stick in the the lineup, regardless of if they sign another free agent for him to compete with. Sam Travis is an emerging young player who could take time away from Ramirez at first base or DH if Ramirez isn’t performing.
If the Red Sox fall short in their pursuit of Martinez then they should have a fallback plan to sign a cheaper power threat. Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda and Mike Moustakas are among the available sluggers the team may consider as a Plan B and all of them are capable of playing one or both of the positions Ramirez is penciled in for.
This will be a pivotal year for Ramirez, who may be entering his final season in Boston. The 34-year old could be looking for his last big league contract next winter if his option year doesn’t vest. Another poor season at the plate will assure that the next contract won’t be with the Red Sox. Another franchise may be willing to take the risk that a change of scenery could revitalize his career but they aren’t going to shell out big money to find out.
Ramirez isn’t worried about losing playing time this season. Based on how he performed last year, maybe he should be.