First Base Shouldn’t Save Hanley Ramirez

None of the Boston Red Sox acquisitions this season have lived up to the hype or the high expectations fans had. The biggest disappointment has been left fielder Hanley Ramirez who signed a big four-year, $88 million contract. Ramirez hasn’t hit recently and his defense has been an area of weakness all season. Now Ramirez is willing to try out playing first base, but it may be too late to save his career as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

This season Ramirez got off to a hot start hitting .293 with an impressive 10 home runs in April, and it looked at first that he was worth that $22 million Boston gave him. Ever since that, Ramirez has been very inconsistent as he has only nine home runs across the next four months. His best month since April was June when he hit .338 with three home runs in 71 at bats, but he did miss more than a quarter of the month with a shoulder injury.

The problem with Ramirez at first base is that he hasn’t been a great fielder no matter where he has played. The most comparable position to first base Ramirez has played is third base and that was a mess for the Miami Marlins. In 90 games, Ramirez committed nine errors resulted in a .954 fielding percentage. While Ramirez wouldn’t need to make the long throws he couldn’t always make, there are questions about his effort and his willingness to play when not feeling close to 100 percent. He was scratched from Friday’s lineup against the New York Mets despite being in the initial starting lineup because the shoulder was bothering him.

Ramirez claims that the shoulder he suffered in June is still bothering him. Since the All-Star break, Ramirez has not hit any home runs and is batting a horrendous .183. Since the break, he has more strikeouts than hits after the break, which is uncharacteristic as he has averaged 136 hits and only 86 strikeouts per season over his career. Ramirez only has three hits in his last eight games and has missed nine of the last 17 due to injury. What’s worse is that by not playing every day, he has allowed Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr to come in and produce making Ramirez expendable.

In all likelihood, Ramirez is feeling the heat because new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is going to be making some changes. Dombrowski has gone on record saying how much he likes the young trio of outfielders in Jackie Bradley Jr, Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo. Ramirez cannot be moved to designated hitter because David Ortiz activated his option for next year when he reached 425 plate appearances this year. Xander Bogaerts is quietly becoming a great shortstop so that position is out and the Red Sox threw a lot of money at Pablo Sandoval to play third base and moving Hanley to third, his weakest defensive position, would leave the Red Sox trying to find a place for Sandoval.

The move to first base comes as a surprise as it is the opposite of what interim manager Torey Luvullo said ten days ago. Former general manager Ben Cherrington and president of baseball operations Larry Lucchino were nice guys, but they either didn’t have the power or the backbone to try and force these changes. The constant rhetoric out of Boston was that “Ramirez is our left fielder” and “We are confident he will turn things around and be the great player we know he can be”. There was a lack of accountability among the players, chief among them Ramirez, and that won’t fly with Dombrowski at the helm.

The Red Sox have a couple of options besides Ramirez. Rookie Travis Shaw continues to impress the front office with his strong bat. He’s hitting .307 with seven home runs in 31 games. In the minor leagues, the team still has Allen Craig, who is starting to rediscover his swing (.278 average with a .368 OBP) that made him a valuable member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The team could go out and try to sign a big name like a Chris Davis (.253 average, 35 home runs) in the offseason, but the money would be better spent on pitching.

Hanley Ramirez hasn’t had the best season for the Red Sox and many wonder if he will get an opportunity to redeem himself next year. Boston isn’t afraid to eat some of the money from the contract in an attempt to get rid of him. Ramirez is a good player and a great hitter, but his attitude doesn’t fit with the club and the Red Sox would be better off without him.

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