Hanley Ramirez surprisingly remains unsigned. More surprising is how much the Boston Red Sox miss his bat against left-handed pitching.
It’s been over three weeks since the Boston Red Sox designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment. He cleared waivers to reach free agency over two weeks ago yet remains unsigned. We’ve hardly heard any whispers of teams with serious interest.
Ramirez started the season hot only to fade quickly in the weeks leading up to his release. The Red Sox had no interest in being on the hook for his $22 million vesting option if he accumulated 497 plate appearances.
The concept was easier to stomach when he was producing but a May slump sealed Ramirez’ fate. The organization felt it was best to cut bait rather than deal with the awkward situation of limiting his playing time with the clear intention of preventing the 2018 option from vesting.
Another club interested in adding Ramirez wouldn’t have the burden of his overpriced salary or the concern of an expensive option looming. Any team can scoop him up for a prorated amount of the major league minimum. So why is Ramirez still not playing baseball?
"“Like I said, he’s healthy and willing to work with a good attitude,” said Cora. “I thought it was going to happen earlier, but now, it’s a little bit of a surprise. But it’s just the way it is.”"
The only thing more surprising than the lack of interest in Ramirez is how much the Red Sox have missed his bat. As much as he struggled in May, Ramirez remains a useful option against left-handed pitching. He hit .333 with a .854 OPS against lefties this season.
A Red Sox offense that has scored the second most runs in the majors may not have many flaws but southpaws have given them fits. Boston is 17th in the majors with a .235 batting average and 26th with a .672 OPS against lefties.
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One reason why Boston found it easier to part with Ramirez was the early season success of Mitch Moreland. They felt he needed steady playing time. Wish granted, as Moreland has sat out only once since Ramirez was released.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to sustain his success with the increased playing time. Moreland is hitting a mere .212 with a .639 OPS in June. The man they call Mitchy Two Bags has hit only one double this month after tallying six in each of the previous two months.
Moreland has historically struggled against lefties and this year is no different. His .244 average and .728 OPS are a drastic split from his production against right-handers. His overall numbers would look better if Ramirez were still around to platoon with him at first base.
Ramirez’ release coincided with the return of Dustin Pedroia, who didn’t stick around long before heading back to the disabled list. Of course, they couldn’t have known that at the time but it does make the decision seem worse in hindsight.
The Red Sox opted to stick with Blake Swihart instead of Ramirez when faced with a roster crunch. How’s that working out? Swihart barely plays and he’s hitting .149 with a .398 OPS. Ramirez gets his fair share of blame for failing to live up to his lucrative contract but he’s never been that bad.
The Red Sox are not a better team without Ramirez. He was shown the door out of fear that he’d become a malcontent with reduced playing time. Weeks later, he’s not receiving any playing time. Which leaves us to wonder – is Ramirez still unsigned because no contending team wants to give him a chance or is he simply content to keep cashing checks while soaking up sun on a beach in the Dominican Republic?
The longer Ramirez goes without a new home, the less likely he is to be able to contribute as a difference-maker. He still has the ability to make an impact, if he wants to. It just won’t be with the Red Sox.