The dust has settled, the smoke has cleared, the Twitter storm has passed, and emotions have evened off, so it’s now time to take an objective look at what will ultimately amount to Hanley Ramirez’s surprising release from the Boston Red Sox.
It’s safe to say that very few, if any, people saw this coming, but when you get past the shock of it all, there are both positives and negatives, pros and cons to the move. Let’s start with the latter.
The Red Sox are forced to eat the remaining $15 million of Hanley’s contract.
Although this was a financially prudent move by Boston (more on that later), they do take a financial hit in the form of the remaining $15 million or so of Ramirez’s contract. Yes, he was DFA’d, so yes, Boston is off the hook for all financial responsibility if they’re able to trade him before he clears waivers, but Ramirez is well on his way to the 497 plate appearances he was going to need to activate the $22 million vesting option for 2019 (more on that later, as well).
To be frank, there’s not a single team in the league that wants anything to do with that option, even more so if it means that they’d be forced to give something up for it in the form of a trade. So, Boston is stuck with the cash hit without anything in return.
The possibility that team chemistry and lineup stability will be effected.
Hanley may have been hurting the team more than helping it of late, but there’s no question that he can still be a dangerous bat in the middle of the order. Will his absence bring about unforeseen consequences?
Incessant lineup shuffling can be risky, and the batting order will obviously require some fine tuning now that Ramirez is gone and the 3-hole he seemed to have locked down is now vacant. Whether or not those tweaks will have an adverse effect on the offense is yet to be seen, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
The Red Sox lose a clubhouse leader and a fan favorite.
The days of Hanley Ramirez the nuisance were long gone this year. There was no more pouting, no more spats with the media, and no more lackadaisical play. Hanley seemed happy and, most importantly, he had taken on the role of clubhouse leader, especially for the young, Latino players like Rafael Devers. That presence will be missed, and now it’s up to someone else to take those reins.
That vesting option is out of the picture.
As mentioned above, Ramirez had a vesting option for 2019 that would have activated once he hit 497 plate appearances. At 195 through 50 games at the time of his assignment, he was on pace for over 600 this year. So, in order to avoid his 2019 option, Alex Cora would have had to find a significant amount of time on the bench for Ramirez, and that could have only led to some internal issues.
Ramirez’s assignment allows Boston to escape the financial burden of his contract for another year and theoretically frees up $22 million to be spent in the offseason on a need or two. They would obviously love to retain Craig Kimbrel as well, and they’ll now have the money to do that if they so choose.
With a young and talented core to build on, that money could be used to ensure that the Red Sox contend for a World Series title in the future as well as the present.
Ramirez was in the middle of one of the worst slumps of his career.
To say that Ramirez was in a slump would be a bit of an understatement. He was hitting just .163/.200/.300 in the month of May, and the decline from his hot start began even before that. He had become at least a temporary detriment to the offense, and he was taking time away from one of the statistically best hitters in the MLB right now, leading us to our next point…
Mitch Moreland gets more playing time.
Moreland is raking right now, slugging the ball at a pace better than all but 3 other MLBers. Consistently keeping his bat out of the lineup was a move that began to be questioned by the general public about a week ago, and Ramirez’s removal from the equation means Moreland should see ample playing time going forward. That instantly makes Boston’s lineup better and takes the burden to consistently produce as a whole off of J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, although they’ve shouldered that load admirably up to this point.
There’s no longer any need to send someone else packing.
The common thought process had either Blake Swihart or Brock Holt being cleared out to make room for Dustin Pedroia’s return, either by DFA or being sent down, respectively. Holt has been one of Boston’s better players, and Swihart hasn’t been given even a sniff of an opportunity to prove himself, so it would have been unfair to either of them to be sacrificed. Ramirez’s departure, however, dodges that situation and hopefully opens the door for Swihart to finally be given the chance to show what he can do, as well as allowing Holt to continue to be an effective utility man.
Questions Going Forward:
Who’s the backup 1st baseman now?
Now that Ramirez is gone, Moreland is the only natural 1st baseman on the team. Who’s going to be the backup to Moreland is one of the biggest questions surrounding this move.
Brock Holt has been good enough at every position he’s ever played, so he would presumably be fine in that role. Swihart is listed as a utility player and is anxious for more at-bats, so he could be an option (although he’s never played 1st base in his life), and if Sam Travis can turn it around in AAA, maybe he’ll get a look at some point.
What does this move say about the working relationship between Dombrowski and Cora?
It’s been confirmed that this idea came from Alex Cora himself, despite the fact that he publicly stated that he had faith Ramirez would find a way to turn it around. Dombrowski obviously trusts Cora enough to take that bold idea and follow through with it, so what kind of role will Cora have in the decision making process regarding other players’ future going forward?
All things considered, this was a good move by the Red Sox. It secures long term access to money they wouldn’t have otherwise had, and for a franchise with a depleted farm system that has hopes of putting together an elite team for years to come, that’s the most important aspect of the Ramirez move.