Hanley Ramirez's season is over. The Red Sox shut him down Thursday for the last handful of games, his balky right shoulder not healing the way the club hoped and thought it would. With that decision went any chance the shortstop-turned-left-fielder would get a shot at first base this year. Alas, we will have to wait until spring for that.
Or will we?
There is no doubt in my mind that Hanley Ramirez has played his last game in a #RedSox uniform.— Tyler Sullivan (@TylerSully) September 24, 2015
There is logic to that thought, that Red Sox will or should or pretty much need to trade Ramirez this winter. As heart-warming as the early-season narrative surrounding Hanley was -- that he'd returned to the team that originally signed him to be with big bro David Ortiz and win the World Series -- Boston's best option at this point might be to cut its losses.
This season has been the worst season of Ramirez's career, one in which he has been the least valuable position player (along with teammate Pablo Sandoval and the Tigers' Victor Martinez) in all of baseball, according to FanGraph's Wins Above Replacement metric.
Ramirez had a down year at the plate -- he hit .249/.291/.426, all his worst marks as a big leaguer or close to it -- and missed multiple several-week stints due to injury. There's a good chance those are connected; as April showed us, Hanley's bat is a potent one when he's right. There's reason to believe his offense will be there after an offseason of rest.
But Ramirez is a man without a position. The idea of "Hanley Ramirez, shortstop" is mostly just funny now. The left-field experiment went terribly. Ramirez has worked out at first base, and on paper it could work … but we said the same thing about the outfield a few months ago.
Hanley, 32 next season, is best suited to serve as a designated hitter, which would both eliminate his status as a defensive liability and help him stay healthy. Him DHing for the Red Sox, as you might know, is not really an option.
Thus, the idea that he is trade bait.
The next step would be finding a trade partner, so let's try to do that by examining each American League team's DH situation for 2016. For the purposes of this exercise, we will largely ignore what the Red Sox might get in return from a given club -- it would probably just be bit pieces and relief, both of the salary and the let's-not-deal-with-this-anymore varieties -- and focus on whether or not any clubs could use a DH.
It's also worth noting that Ramirez is due about $66 million from 2016-18, with a $22 million vesting option for '19 based on his number of plate appearances in 2017 and '18. Ramirez's "cost" to a theoretical new team would likely be lower than the full amount on his contract, with the Red Sox eating some in an effort to trade him.
Since it's only 14 teams, and since a big-contract trade like this one requires thorough homework and tire-kicking, we may as well at least touch on each AL club. They are listed below from least likely to want to trade for Ramirez to most likely, or something close to it.
New York Yankees. LOL. The Red Sox and Yankees don't trade with each other very often -- excluding last summer's Kelly Johnson-Stephen Drew megadeal -- and the Yanks will still have the unicorn blood-drinking Alex Rodriguez at DH in '16.
Tampa Bay Rays. Maybe one day the Rays will move to Montreal and have a lot of fans and be able to pay a designated hitter $20 per year.
Oakland Athletics. Hanley Ramirez for Sonny Gray -- who says no? Just kidding. It's hard to imagine the infamously small-payrolled A's having any desire to obtain Ramirez, even if they didn't have Billy Butler under contract for two more years.
Chicago White Sox. Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche say hello.
Kansas City Royals. Kendrys Morales is productive and inexpensive this year, and he likely will be next year, too.
Texas Rangers. Prince Fielder isn't going anywhere, and with good reason.
Houston Astros. Ditto, but with Evan Gattis instead of Fielder.
Detroit Tigers. Victor Martinez, as bad as he has been this year, is due about $50 million through 2018. Rough.
If you move some other pieces …
Minnesota Twins. Acquiring Hanley would mean moving Miguel Sano to third base full-time, which would mean moving the productive and controllable Trevor Plouffe from the hot corner, which seems less than ideal. There are too many moving parts here to really make it worth it.
Seattle Mariners. Putting Ramirez on a team that already has Nelson Cruz splitting his time between DH and right field seems like asking for trouble. But Mark Trumbo will be a free agent, so if the Mariners were comfortable trying Hanley at first a little and DH most of the time, it's not out of the realm of possibility. A middle of the order of Cruz-Hanley-Robinson Cano, in any order, is intimidating.
Cleveland Indians. Carlos Santana has spent most of the year at first, where he has been only so-so defensively. If Cleveland wants to stick with Santana there, Ramirez could be an option at DH.
Maybe, but they're in the AL East
Toronto Blue Jays. Among the 288 qualified batters, Edwin Encarnacion ranks 25th in WAR since his breakout 2012. The Jays have a $10 million option on him for 2016. What if Toronto could get Hanley for that kind of money (with the Red Sox picking up the tab)? The bigger-picture decision would then be two more years and $44 million (again, minus what Boston would be willing to pay) for Ramirez versus many more years and many more millions of dollars for a free-agent Encarnacion. It's not outlandish, but the intra-division trade aspect makes it a little iffier.
Baltimore Orioles. The O's missed out on re-signing Nelson Cruz last winter, and the new Hanley would, in theory, fit a similar mold: power-hitting DH (albeit a likely more expensive one). Ramirez's bat would certainly help if Chris Davis bolts in free agency. Would the likes of Adam Jones and Manny Machado be able to keep Hanley in line if he starts to act up?
The best (only?) option
Los Angeles Angels. This makes sense. Let's presume Albert Pujols is healthy enough to resume his duties as full-time first baseman. That would leave a big-market team that hasn't won a playoff game since 2009 with an empty DH slot and an ever-present need to compete. Maybe Hanley still has his Los Angeles pad from his Dodger days.