Red Sox should part ways with Ramirez to re-sign Kimbrel

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 15: Closing pitcher Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after the final out against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Red Sox defeated the Indians 3-2. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 15: Closing pitcher Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after the final out against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Red Sox defeated the Indians 3-2. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Red Sox have a lot of financial commitments this year, but they must prioritize keeping Craig Kimbrel over paying Hanley Ramirez.

The Boston Red Sox have many decisions to make about their future financial commitments. They lead MLB in team salary at $205.50 million, which doesn’t bode well for retaining their impending free agents. Leading the majors in salary certainly takes them out of the race to retain Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz and David Price — should he opt out — right?

Not quite. In fact, Boston has a chance to create plenty of room to retain their own plus add a star through free agency. Despite leading the majors in salary for 2018, the Red Sox rank seventh in salary for 2019 at $106.99 million. This is also not factoring in the possibility of Hanley Ramirez being cut from payroll, should he fall short of his 1,050 plate appearances’ clause in his contract.

Of course, the Red Sox will have to make decisions on Kimbrel, Pomeranz, and Joe Kelly, assuming Price opts in. This will heavily impact the 2019 payroll, and barring any major trades or subtractions from the roster, the Red Sox likely will rank higher than seventh at this time next year. The future salary ramifications can be found here:

It’s impossible to play Russian roulette with Boston’s roster to figure out who should be re-signed or not, but it begs the question: Should the Red Sox do everything in their power to prevent Ramirez from reaching his contract clause in order to retain Kimbrel? Even if Ramirez and Kimbrel both have all-star years, the Red Sox must keep arguably the best closer in the American League.

Ramirez, 34, will make nearly $23 million next season. While his 2016 was very impressive, his 2017 was a struggle. Ramirez regressed from a .286/.361/.505 slash line to .242/.320/.429. Additionally, his home runs went from 30 to 23, and RBI fell from 111 to 62. Essentially, Ramirez was half the offensive powerhouse in a one year span.

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Yet, hope remains for Ramirez who has been vocal about his excitement for the addition for J.D. Martinez. “Now we’re going to step on everybody’s neck,” he said at spring training. He also told Rob Bradford that he can return back to his Marlins form now that his shoulder has been surgically repaired.

However, even if Ramirez goes back to mashing 30+ HR, the Red Sox can’t afford to have $23 million count against the salary to a 35-year-old in 2019 with a fragile shoulder. Especially when two relievers and a starting pitcher are all impending free agents. The money must be used wisely, which doesn’t include paying Ramirez.

Kimbrel, 29, has voiced his opinion to Mass Live’s Christopher Smith of potentially staying in Boston, though he hasn’t thought about free agency right now.

"“That’s not anything I can concern myself with or my family can concern ourselves with,” Kimbrel said here at JetBlue Park on Saturday. “It’s just worrying about this year. And if we’re able to take care of things this year, and things go in the right direction, we’ll definitely have a lot of time to think about that next year.”“I’ve enjoyed my time here in Boston,” he said. “Been a part of two winning teams. And hopefully three after this year. You never know where life is going to take you. So I learned that a lot this offseason in dealing with my daughter. So I’m just going to take each day for what it is.“And if we’re talking about if I’m going to come back here next year or if I’m going somewhere else, next year really is the time to talk about that. Right now I’m a Boston Red Sox. I’m happy to be a Boston Red Sox and I’m looking forward to this year.”"

At times, Kimbrel has single-handedly preserved victory for the Red Sox. Yes, the bullpen was strong for most of the year last season, but there were stretches where former manager John Farrell only had Kimbrel to turn to. Kimbrel will earn $13 million in the last year of his contract, and if he replicates last year’s exceptional numbers, the closer will be in for a huge payday — possibly even larger than starter Pomeranz.

If it comes down to paying one of Kimbrel, Pomeranz, Kelly and Ramirez, the Red Sox should pay Kimbrel. He’s not just a spoke on the wheel, but a key cog to the Red Sox’ success.

Relief pitching was a strong suit to this team’s success last season, and they needed to improve power. They did so in signing Martinez.

But let’s not forget, power wasn’t a problem when David Ortiz was still on the roster, pitching was. Now that the Red Sox have attempted to replace Ortiz, do they really bet on themselves to find a sufficient replacement for Kimbrel? Closers aren’t easy to come by, hence why the Red Sox traded for Kimbrel in the first place.

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Don’t take a step forward in signing Martinez, only to take a step backwards by losing Kimbrel. It’s bad business to solve one problem and create another; something the Red Sox have done too much have for three consecutive seasons now.