Hanley’s homecoming disappointed the Red Sox
Hanley Ramirez came up through the Red Sox farm system and briefly made his major league debut in 2005 before headlining a trade package that sent him to the Marlins in exchange for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. The deal would ultimately lead to a World Series title for the Red Sox in 2007 while Ramirez would flourish in Florida.
Ramirez returned to the Red Sox when they signed him to a four-year, $88 million deal prior to the 2015 season. Unfortunately, he failed to live up to the reputation he built over a decade in the National League.
A hot start to his first season back in Boston had fans excited about the reunion. Ramirez blasted 10 home runs in the month of April, leading the team to a winning record in the opening month of the season.
In early May, Ramirez suffered a shoulder injury when he collided with the left field wall while chasing a fly ball. He tried to battle through the pain but clearly wasn’t the same hitter and was shut down in late-August with a sore shoulder. Ramirez finished the season hitting .249 with a .717 OPS, 19 home runs and 53 RBI.
The offensive production wasn’t horrible but it was far from the level the Red Sox were paying him for. What’s worse is that the signing made little sense to begin with. Ramirez started his career as a shortstop but moved to third base when age sapped him of his range. The Red Sox didn’t have an opening at either position but coveted his bat enough to sign him anyway, assuming they’d figure out the fit later.
They never did. Boston’s experiment with Ramirez in the outfield was a disaster. He produced a brutal -14 defensive runs saved in only 92 games in left field. Fielding a position he wasn’t familiar with can partially be blamed on the injury that spoiled his season.
His disappointing production at the plate combined with his adventures in the outfield produced a career-worst -0.7 WAR during his first season back in Boston.
A healthy Ramirez bounced back in 2016, hitting .286 with a .866 OPS, 30 home runs and 111 RBI. He primarily played first base that season and while he wasn’t very good at it, Ramirez was less of a liability there than he was in the outfield. As long as he was producing at the plate, the Red Sox could live with his defensive limitations.
The redemption wouldn’t last. Ramirez took over the DH role in 2017 following the retirement of David Ortiz but his production declined without Big Papi’s presence in the lineup. Ramirez hit .242 with a .750 OPS, 23 home runs and 62 RBI while producing -0.3 WAR.
The Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez to be their primary DH in 2018 and Mitch Moreland was locked in at first base. Ramirez shared time at both spots early in the season but was released in May. There were concerns that Ramirez wouldn’t adapt well to a bench role and the team didn’t want to risk disrupting the clubhouse chemistry. Releasing him also avoided any chance of triggering his $22 million vesting option for 2019.
Boston ended up getting one strong season, two duds, plus one where they essentially paid him to go away.