With a forgettable 2015 season nearly complete, Hanley Ramirez is already eyeing his role with the Boston Red Sox in 2016. That role will see him move from left field to first base, as he told reporters, including Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
Hanley IS moving to first base by next year, he said. Maybe some this year. He’s on board. “I’m looking forward to it.”
— Michael Silverman (@MikeSilvermanBB) August 25, 2015
Ramirez, 31, came back to Boston in the offseason, signing a four-year, $88 million contract with the Red Sox, per ESPN. In addition to inking their former farmhand, the Red Sox also signed third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The duo of of Ramirez and Sandoval were expected to be key components in a rebound season for Boston.
But in the first year of their deals, that has not proven to be the case.
Entering Wednesday, Ramirez is batting.252 with 19 HR and 53 RBI as Boston’s primary left fielder. On the surface, Ramirez’s number may not seem terrible but his season has truly been the tale of two players.
After getting off to a scorching hot start in April by hitting 10 HR and hitting.293, Ramirez has hit just.244 with nine HR in 82 games since. Not only has his offense regressed but his defense never seemed to improve, either.
As part of his signing with the Red Sox, the former longtime shortstop and third baseman agreed to make the transition to left field. Many people questioned the decision and their doubt proved to have merit.
According to FanGraphs, Ramirez sports a league worst -16.7 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). Ironically, his closest competition for worst UZR is aforementioned teammate Pablo Sandoval (-16.1). In addition to his poor UZR, Ramirez ranks dead last in defensive runs saves with a -19 mark, per Fangraphs.
Needless to say, 2015 has been a defensive disaster for Ramirez.
Therefore, he will look to improve his value to the team as the Red Sox attempt to improve in 2016. Also, with Ramirez becoming the incumbent at first base, it gives the team some much needed flexibility. For example, with Ramirez gone from the outfield, the Red Sox can finally trot our the trio of Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts.
Castillo, in particular, has suffered from Ramirez’s presence this season. The 28-year-old Cuban import signed a seven-year, $72.5 million deal last season, giving the Red Sox another capable option in the outfield. But with the likes of Ramirez, and the departed Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino present, there was no room on the roster for Castillo.
But since being recalled from Triple-A, Castillo has begun to hit his stride. Through 48 total games in 2015, he is hitting.305 with five HR and 25 RBI. Also, if Ramirez becomes the first baseman, a player like Allen Craig will not have a defined role on the team. After being acquired as part of the John Lackey trade in 2014, Craig has failed to live up to his hefty contract. His performance in 2015 caused the Red Sox to demote him to Triple-A, where he’s hit.272 with just three HR.
Boston still owes Craig $21 million through 2017, as noted by MLBTradeRumors.
If Ramirez can hold down first base in 2016, the Red Sox will be able to use the money they would’ve spent trying to upgrade first base elsewhere. For starters, they can be in the market for an ace type pitcher and bullpen help.
Finally, Ramirez said that he may begin the transition sooner rather than later by potentially playing some games at first base this season.
[Image by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images]