The Boston Red Sox got Memorial Day weekend off to a shocking start with the announcement that Hanley Ramirez had been designated for assignment.
The 34-year-old veteran was in the final year of a 4-year, $88 million deal. The contract included a $22 million vesting for 2019 if Ramirez managed another 302 plate appearances during the 2018 regular season.
Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski acknowledged Friday that it was manager Alex Cora who suggested removing Ramirez from the roster to make room for a returning Dustin Pedroia. Cora has since confirmed that revelation.
Ramirez was off to an uninspiring start this season, having posted a .254/.313/.395 slash line through 44 games. He was currently in the middle of an 0-for-20 stretch.
With that said, there’s still plenty of reason to believe that Ramirez can be a contributor in 2018 and beyond. Defensively, he’s a liability. That certainly limits the number of ways he can help a team. But it’s not like the life in his bat has been completely drained.
That got us to thinking about the teams that could benefit from signing Ramirez for the stretch run. The Red Sox first have seven days to trade or release Ramirez. Given the contract, a trade seems unlikely unless another team wants to take on a big chunk of the $15 million he’s still owed. That means Boston will likely eat the money, then standby to see where Ramirez signs.
If we were the Red Sox, we’d be a little uneasy about that process. There are a few teams out there in direct competition with Boston that could use another bat. The possibility exists that Boston continues paying Ramirez, he signs with one of those teams for the veteran minimum and then comes back to haunt Boston later.
Here are some landings spots where that possibility could become a reality.
The defending World Series champions don’t necessarily need an offensive boost. They entered the holiday weekend fourth in MLB in runs scored, and on top of that have baseball’s best starting rotation by a wide margin.
Nonetheless, they do have a hole at designated hitter. To date, five different players have hit in that spot for manager A.J. Hinch, and their combined production is 14th out of 15 AL teams. Knowing that, and knowing that there’s no such thing as too much depth, could ultimately motivate general manager Jeff Luhnow to check in on Hanley.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels could use another option at designated hitter for those days when Shohei Ohtani isn’t available. Because he’s also a once-a-week starting pitcher, Ohtani is typically limited to three games in the lineup per week. On the days he’s not available, the Angels don’t have too many exciting options to fill the role. That’s where a veteran like Ramirez could help.
In all likelihood, Ramirez will be looking for more than the part-time role the Angels would have to offer. That could make them long shots in the Hanley sweepstakes. If he’s looking for a spot where he could immediately contend and perhaps hurt the Red Sox though, the Angels might make the most sense. If the Red Sox don’t win the division, the Angels are a team they could be battling in the wild card race or the wild-card game for that matter.
Though they look like more of a long shot now, the same could still be said of the Twins.
Minnesota could have used an offensive upgrade even before Joe Mauer went on the disabled list last week with a cervical neck strain and concussion-like symptoms. Now that the longtime face of the Twins franchise will be sidelined for awhile, the need for an upgrade is definite.
Whether Ramirez could be that guy is another question. He’s remained a solid power source in recent years, hitting 59 homers overall dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season. Of course, only six of those have come this season across 177 at-bats. Still, with the Twins ranking bottom 10 in home runs hit, they could use any power they can find.
New York Yankees
This isn’t going to happen. The Yankees don’t have a need for Ramirez. They’re just happy they don’t have to face him in a Red Sox uniform after he’s hit .388 against them in six games this season.
Ramirez would have the most chances to hurt Boston by signing with any AL East team. That’s because those teams play Boston the most. With Toronto on the fringe of contention though and both Tampa Bay and Baltimore well out of it, Ramirez couldn’t do maximum damage by signing with any of them.
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