The Red Sox are primed to make some moves this off-season, but not much is known about what those moves will be. They might sign a big money pitcher, they might not. They might trade a bunch of prospects, but they might not. They’re very likely to do something, probably, but what that something is, nobody has any idea. That’s all true, with one exception, an exception you’re likely aware of if you read the title of this post. Hanley Ramirez, lost puppy, needs a new home, and the Red Sox would very much likely to give him one.
It was only last season that Hanley showed up in Boston, skinny, hungry, wet from constant proverbial rain. The Red Sox took him in, scratched him behind the ears, and gave him shelter, food, and $88 million on a four-year deal with a $22 million vesting option. Then he spent the better part of the season pooping on the carpet.
Ramirez’s 2015 season was so bad he cost the Red Sox two wins. For $22 million and the promise of $66 million more, Boston got -1.8 WAR. The Red Sox would literally have been better off had Ben Cherington given one of those “we just signed a new player” press conferences and then, like Clint Eastwood, spent the time talking to an empty chair. Or maybe he could have talked about the team’s prospects for the coming season while casually lighting 20s on fire and tossing them over his shoulder while subordinates ran around frantically with fire extinguishers. Had he done that, it might have been the end of Cherington’s job, but if so it only would have sped up the process by about six months.
Now Boston is run by Dave Dombrowski and Dombrowski has moved Hanley from left field, which he can’t play, to first base, which he probably can’t play but we can’t be sure yet. Instead of putting him there for the final month of the season to see if he could, you know, do it, Boston sent him home. This is known as the writing being on the wall. Instead of getting ready for next season when getting ready for next season was all that was left, Boston said, “Nah, you know what, Hanley? Just get out of here. No, no, it’s fine, we’re good. Sure, sure we are. Have a great holiday!” So Hanley needs a new place to play. The Red Sox don’t want to go into next season with a total unknown at an important defensive position, let alone one they perceive to be a player who wasn’t interested in putting out maximum effort to learn a new position. No, they’re going to try to dump him on someone else.
That sounds impossible considering the money and everything else, but Prince Fielder was traded. Carl Crawford was traded. Vernon Freakin’ Wells was traded. Problems and all, we are talking about a soon-to-be 32-year-old player two seasons removed from a 3.3 win season, and three years removed from a 5.1 win season. It’s not that another team will want him so much as they might want him more than a different over-priced anvil hanging around their neck.
But who? That’s the question I keep coming back to. Who would possibly want an expensive player with injury concerns and no defensive position whose only skill – hitting – utterly failed him last season? Let’s find out! But before I go dropping a list of every single team on you, we should try to narrow things down a bit. Any trading partner is likely going to need to say ‘yes’ to at least two of these questions.
- Do they have a similarly undesirable or overly expensive player on their roster?
- If so, is that player of any interest to Boston? Like, even a little? Maybe?
- Do they have a space of some sort for Ramirez/can they delude themselves into thinking that there is some place on the diamond besides DH he could play?
For example, the Phillies wouldn’t meet any of those points. True, they do have Ryan Howard, but Howard has – mercifully – one season remaining on his ridiculous five year, $125 million contract, so why would they take on an extra $41 million for an essentially similar player? Answer: they wouldn’t. Same goes for the Astros who could potentially put Ramirez at DH but to do so they’d require the Red Sox to essentially pay his salary. Boston could opt to do this, but it seems at that point they’d just keep Ramirez and hope he bounces back, as it’ll cost them the same either way. At least with the latter they have some possibility of upside should Ramirez bounce back.
So I’ve gone through the teams, examined rosters and contracts, and below, you’ll find the fruits of my labors. Here are six teams who could, maybe, serve as trading partners to the Red Sox and provide a new home for Hanley Ramirez.
First, the long shots.
This could work if the Reds decided they wanted to get rid of Joey Votto. The Red Sox need a first baseman and the $206 million over the next eight seasons due to Votto would more than offset the $66 million due to Ramirez. But then you get into some logistical problems for both teams. Do the Reds want to deal their homegrown MVP just to be rid of his contract? Maybe, but don’t you think they’d want something else back in return, something they could hold up as value in return to their fans? Maybe the Red Sox send prospects with Ramirez, or maybe this gets too complicated and both teams go their separate ways.
The A’s are a potential fit in that they need a DH. But they’re notoriously budget conscious to the point where they don’t have anyone on the roster who would alleviate enough of the pain of acquiring Ramirez. Billy Butler is still owed $20 million but, well, why? With the A’s it comes down to this: are the Red Sox desperate enough to be rid of Ramirez that they’d pay most if not all of his salary just to make him go away? Maybe.
Perhaps the Rangers would prefer Ramirez to Shin-Soo Choo, who is owed $102 million over the next five seasons, or Prince Fielder, who they’ll pay $120 over the next five seasons (though some of which is offset by a $30 million payment from the Tigers). Both should probably be DHs, though, and the Red Sox already have one of those, so maybe that doesn’t work. The Rangers also have Elvis Andrus and the $105 million he’s due between now and 2022, though the Red Sox already have a shortstop in Xander Bogaerts and the Rangers already have Prince Fielder clogging up the DH, so that seems unlikely.
Beyond those options, the Padres spring to mind partially because who knows what A.J. Preller will try next, but mostly because they have Matt Kemp who, like Ramirez, is essentially a DH playing the outfield. Kemp is owed $86 million between now and 2019, so more money and a year longer deal, but on the plus side, Kemp can play the outfield badly — as opposed to Ramirez, who can’t play the outfield in any quantifiable way whatsoever. Also, maybe get Kemp out of San Diego and put him in left field at Fenway, the smallest outfield in the majors, and he’d be able to handle it. Perhaps the Padres would be willing to take on the worse player because it’ll save them $20 million and they’d be rid of the headache a year sooner. Or maybe Dombrowski will throw in a pizza. It couldn’t hurt.
Now on to the slightly more likely candidates.
The underproductive Joe Mauer is still owed $69 million, a similar figure to the $66 million Ramirez has coming to him. Also Mauer can stand next to first base without causing it to explode. The Red Sox might find that attractive, and the Twins have a hole at DH (named Oswaldo Arcia) so maybe they would be willing to take a chance on a Ramirez return to glory.
Dombrowski clearly knows the Tigers roster inside and out and the Tigers possess more than a few expensive contracts. They owe Miguel Cabrera $248 million over the next eight seasons, Justin Verlander $112 million over the next four seasons, Victor Martinez will make $54 million in total over the next three seasons, and $32 million in total will go to Anibal Sanchez over the next two seasons. That’s a lot of levels. Maybe somewhere in there Dombrowski and new Detroit GM Al Avila can hit on an equal level of salary dump. Or maybe it’s like walking into an ice cream store with 70 flavors listed on the wall. At some point it just becomes too difficult and you decide to just bake a cake instead.
The Angels have, if not a need, then flexibility at DH, and an abundance of expensive players they might be interested in dealing — and there has possibly been some discussion between the two clubs already. The problem is, the expensive players don’t fit the timeline or value of Ramirez’s contract very well. C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver are both due $20 million this year and neither is very good, but after this season their contracts expire. Then there’s Albert Pujols, whose contract runs forever and costs everything. There isn’t that middle ground, like a Mauer or Victor Martinez where you can at least see the numbers matching up a bit if not the players. Still, the Angels could use a DH, so perhaps there is a bit of work that can be done outside of the obvious, GM to GM, to facilitate a deal.
I’ve been tempted to use “outside the box” a few times in this piece and for that I’m ashamed, but that’s where Dave Dombrowski will have to look if he wants to find a new home for sad Hanley. Talk to the Twins. Call up the Tigers. Get the Rangers on the horn. Be kind. Be confident. And when it comes down to it, don’t be afraid to beg.