Red Sox are in a contractual and ethical bind with Hanley Ramirez

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 03: Hanley Ramirez
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 03: Hanley Ramirez /

What do the Boston Red Sox do with Hanley Ramirez? A hot start means continual playing time on an albatross type contract.

Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez gets a game-winning double. Hanley smokes a line shot to left for a home run. Hanley gets a game-winning hit.  Hanley signs autographs for kids. Hanley hits third in the lineup. Hanley solves the problem of cold fusion. The Hanley press machine is in full operation, but don’t be fooled again.

Ramirez is working on his precious 497 plate appearances to have his vesting option of $22 million to kick in. This season Ramirez is in the budget for $22.75 million for a player who is now best suited as a designated hitter. BSI’s Bryson Gordon wrote in detail regarding said contract.

Ramirez playing first base is juggling flaming chainsaws with just one hand and metrics are most certainly accurate on his defensive liabilities. A one-dimensional player. That has been visibly and statistically true for several years.

Ramirez had a lousy 2017 season with a meager 62 RBI – the same as that noted RBI machine Dustin Pedroia. Of course, the issue was a shoulder and now Ramirez is all set to crank out a season that will match 2016. This is and always will be a bad contract no matter how much buttercream frosting is added to it.

We have been down the Hanley path ever since Ramirez was signed. A model of year-to-year inconsistency not only with the Red Sox but with Miami and the Dodgers.  We are all aware of Hanley’s penchant for even year success in Boston. And this season I expect a banner year for Ramirez with anything being an improvement over 2017 when the metric tally was a -0.4 fWAR.

What is best for the team? Sam Travis sits and waits in Pawtucket for an opportunity. Mitch Moreland is a plus defender, but, alas, lefty pitchers feast on Moreland. Brock Holt is a shell of the player of a few years back. Blake Swihart has only nibbled at first base. Rafael Devers may eventually end up on first, but that is a few years away.

So, the Red Sox will go with Ramirez somewhere in the lineup and manager Alex Cora can mix and match his lineup card so Ramirez – unless an injury interferes, or serious performance degradation takes place – will get his continuation of big paydays. The reality is Ramirez is not worth it. Never has been worth it unless you get in a time machine and go back ten years.

The Red Sox are in a payroll conundrum with Ramirez. In 2019, his salary – if attained –  will represent approximately 10% of the Red Sox contract commitments.  The Red Sox will be faced with serious contract issues after 2018 with Craig Kimbrel and after 2019 with Chris Sale. Then there are the plethora of younger players ascending the ladder to free agency.  And, of course, several other players who will be free agents.

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The ethical approach would be to play Ramirez if his production is of plus value and based on the early evidence this lineup appears ready to duplicate 2017.  Ramirez will be needed unless everyone finds their ruby-red hitting shoes.

The idea is to win and not subjugate a player over contractual circumstances. But there is also the proverbial big picture and that means finding the dollars to allocate elsewhere and a Ramirez vesting option would impact that. That leads to a slippery slope of simply having a player sit to avoid reaching an incentive.

The consideration is possible action by the Wasserman Media Group that represents Ramirez. If the Red Sox deliberately curtail Ramirez’s plate appearances there is always the possibility of legal repercussions. The stench of such a deliberate action could also impede other signings.

Next: David Price produces another scoreless outing

The reality is the Red Sox will play Ramirez if he produces and remains healthy. Otherwise, any actions by the Red Sox would be considered punitive over a contract they willingly negotiated in good faith with Ramirez. And, of course, based on the ownership persistence in renaming Yawkey Way we fully realize just how ethical they are.