In a decision that shocked the MLB world, the Boston Red Sox today designated first baseman/DH Hanley Ramirez for assignment. The American League East leaders faced an immediate logjam on their 25-man roster with the activation of second baseman Dustin Pedroia from the disabled list, but no one really expected that Hanley would be the one to go.
Instead, the expectation was that Blake Swihart (who is out of options) would be traded or that some other player (e.g., Jackie Bradley Jr. or Brock Holt) would be demoted to Triple-A.
With at least a total of 497 at-bats this season, and he was well on this way to get there, clubhouse-favorite Ramirez, 34, would have automatically qualified for a $22 million contract in 2019. The DFA status, a bold decision apparently made by team president Dave Dombrowski, eliminates the vesting clause for next year’s already-massive Red Sox payroll.
Ramirez made his MLB debut with the Sox in 2005 and returned to Boston in the 2015 season on a four-year, $88 million contract. Ramirez originally was slotted as the starting left fielder, but that turned out to be a defensive disaster.
Hanley Ramirez was productive out of the gate this season, batting 0.330 in April in the three hole, but is currently mired in a 0-20 slump. Against this backdrop, Blake Swihart can play the outfield as well as multiple positions in the infield, including first base and catcher. Mitch Moreland, currently batting 0.311, obviously figures to get increased playing time at first base. The versatile Brock Holt can play every position apart from catcher.
The designated hitter is designated
According to the Boston Globe, Ramirez, who is coming off a left shoulder surgery would have remained on the everyday roster if he had consistently produced.
“The Sox were prepared to let Ramirez stay in the lineup and let the option vest if his production warranted it. But after he went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts Thursday, he is now hitting 0.254/.313/.395 for the season, with a.708 OPS that ranks 30th among 44 first basemen with at least 100 plate appearances… his midseason release will raise questions about whether there were unreported off-field issues, or whether this decision was made solely to provide [manager Alex] Cora with the most functional roster.”
The year 2016 was his best season in Boston, during which he batted 0.286 with 30 home runs and a career-high 111 RBI.
Although they are parting ways with Hanley, the Red Sox are still on the hook for his guaranteed $15 million, 2018 salary. Under MLB rules, the team must trade him or release him within seven days, at which point he becomes a free agent. A viable trade seems rather challeging, since the DFA classification gives the Red Sox minimal leverage to gain equal value in return.
Dave Dombrowski has made a decision w/future in mind above the rest. DFA’ing Hanley Ramirez, barring new info, centers on future money (and from there, roster flexibility) & may not help 2018 team. What would Hanley have brought rest of year? Sox don’t want to spend to find out.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) May 25, 2018
According to WEEI, it was Cora’s idea to cut loose Ramirez, and Dombrowski accepted this recommendation rather than go with the original plan (which probably meant that Swihart’s days as a member of the Red Sox would have been over over). Cora had concluded that a part-time role would not be a good fit for Hanley moving forward.
That said, any MLB team looking for a right-handed bat may give Hanley Ramirez a close look, especially since a club will only be required to pay him the pro-rated MLB minimum salary. The Red Sox likely prefer that he signs with a National League squad, assuming a team in that no-DH circuit needs a first baseman. With injuries in both leagues everpresent, moreover, one or more teams may be interested in his services.
Teams that have been mentioned a possible landing spot for Hanley Ramirez include the Colorado Rockies, New York Mets, or Philadelphia Phillies in the NL, and the Minnesota Twins in the AL.
Check back with the Inquisitr on where Hanley Ramirez might land in the context of trade possibilities or otherwise.
A former shorstop and third baseman in the NL, Hanley Ramirez is a career 0.290 hitter with 269 home runs and about 900 RBIs. He was named Rookie of the Year for the-then Florida Marlins in 2006 and is a three-time MLB all-star.
Ramirez officially joined the Red Sox on the same day as former San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who inked a five-year, $95 million contract with Boston. His tenure was also a disaster for various reasons that have been well documented, and the team DFA’d “Panda” in July 2017, similarly leaving the Red Sox owing him all the money that remained on his contract.
The Boston Red Sox without Hanley Ramirez in the lineup open a three-game, interleague home stand against the Atlanta Braves starting tonight.