During his time with the then Florida Marlins, Hanley Ramirez was often considered to be one of the top all-around players in the game. A power-hitting shortstop is a commodity in and of itself but one that could also hit for average, steal bases, and more or less hold his own a premium position? That’s a franchise player right there. Injuries and a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers have occurred since that time but he is still a star player.
Ramirez is coming off a relatively healthy season compared to 2013 and, although he missed time with a myriad of smaller injuries, only hit the disabled list once in August with an oblique strain. In 512 plate appearances he posted a .283/.369/.448 slash line with a 135 wRC+.
But what kind of free agent is Ramirez?
Age: 31 on Dec. 23
Agent: Wasserman Media Group
Qualifying Offer: Yes
For his career Ramirez has hit right and left-handed pitching very well with a higher wRC+ against lefties, albeit in a lesser number of plate appearances. He can hit the ball to all fields and has significantly more power when pulling the ball. The right-hander hits fastballs, sliders, and changeups well and has maintained a contact rate north of 80 percent over the course of his career — he doesn’t swing and miss much. Ramirez has expanded his zone in recent years but remains a very disciplined hitter who boasts a nearly ten percent career walk rate and a 16.6 percent strikeout rate.
Ramirez has predominantly played shortstop during his career but saw almost 900 innings at third base in 2012. In his former years the 30-year old was an average defensive shortstop at best with a knack for making throwing errors. Through attrition his range and arm strength have decreased and a move to the less-demanding hot corner in the near future seems likely. Ramirez considers himself to be a shortstop but he has shown willingness to play third and even left field. Given his injury history, having the Wasserman Media Group client see regular reps at designated hitter would likely be necessary, should he sign with an American League team.
The legs won’t steal 50 bases anymore, but Ramirez stole 14 in 2014 and is an average baserunner with a reputation that’ll probably do more to distract the pitcher than grab an extra base now and then.
Ramirez boasts one of the most sought after commodities in the game: right-handed power. Although he probably won’t hit 33 home runs again like he did in 2008, even 20 — a very reasonable projection for 2015 — carries significant value given the scarcity of power. That power also does not come with the sacrifice of batting average or a high strikeout rate. The bat is plus-plus at shortstop and even at third base it would still be plus. Throw in 10-to-15 steals and you have a very valuable player. The 20/20 season has become somewhat of an enigma, but a 20/15 finish in 2015 isn’t out of the question for Ramirez. He’s still an above-average athlete overall.
Given Ramirez’s ability to take pitches and handle the strike zone with a disciplined approach, he can hit practically anywhere in the lineup. He regularly hit in the No. 3 spot for a loaded Dodgers lineup in 2014 between Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez. Earlier in his career the infielder was the perfect leadoff hitter and regularly refuted the theory of lineup protection while he was with the Marlins.
Although Ramirez will turn just 31 in December, he has a lot of miles on a body that has shown signs of fragility. It would be no surprise to see him spend a significant period on the disabled list at any point during the five or six-year deal he figures to sign. The three-time All-Star can probably handle another year or two at short, but a move to a corner spot is imminent. He’s becoming a liability in the field, if he isn’t already as a shortstop.
There’s also the Hollywood side of HanRam who essentially wore out his welcome with the Marlins before basking the the lights of Los Angeles. Questions have been raised about his work ethic although the Dodgers claimed otherwise earlier in the year. When he’s struggling at the plate Ramirez can be a distraction and his loud personality comes off more as arrogance than passion. It’s important to note however that over the last couple seasons the Dodgers clubhouse chemistry has been less than terrible due to the number of high-maintenance personalities and egos with a lack of control shown by manager Don Mattingly.
Cost & Conclusion: Mariners Perspective
Nobody is going to argue that Ramirez isn’t a great player. Despite the injuries and attitude questions the guy can flat out play. The Seattle Mariners are reportedly showing serious interest in the star, though his price tag may be prohibitive. As one of the top bats available on the market Ramirez is seeking a deal in excess of $100 million over five or six years. Considering Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury received seven-year deals worth $130 million and $153 million respectively last winter, a nine-figure contract shouldn’t be a problem for the former Rookie of the Year.
The Mariners have a pair of solid young shortstops in Brad Miller and Chris Taylor as well as a rising prospect in Katel Marte, but it’s unclear whether or not the club believes one of the three is a long-term solution at short. Both Miller and Taylor are above average defensively with Miller showing more power and Taylor showing better contact skills. However Miller struggled mightily at times in 2014 and Taylor’s batting average was inflated by an unsustainably high BABIP. There’s also speculation that one of the two will be dealt with winter in a trade for a corner bat. Marte is still at least a year away from the big leagues.
Seattle shocked the baseball world when they handed Robinson Cano a ten-year, $240 million contract last winter and presumably could spend big bucks again. Aside from Felix Hernandez, Cano, and Kyle Seager’s potential extension, the Mariners lack any serious payroll commitments beyond 2015. Depending on how you calculate it, the M’s have around $73 million committed to 2015 without accounting for league minimum and arbitration players. After spending $106 million in 2014 and reportedly having additional payroll available according to team president Kevin Mather, the club presumably has around $40 million — possibly more — to play with this winter.
Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill opines that, despite his superior offensive skills, Ramirez is not an ideal fit for the Mariners. It’s not that he doesn’t fit as the M’s do need a right-handed bat with some power and conceivably have a hole at shortstop. It’s the fact that this is a club with multiple holes to fill and committing $20-25 million annually to Ramirez would limit the club’s flexibility.
Ramirez has to maintain the bat to stay valuable as his defensive skills figure to only continue declining over the next couple seasons. Despite the Dodgers stating their interest in retaining their shortstop throughout the past season they have yet to engage in serious contract talks. A new regime with executive extraordinaire Andrew Friedman at the top is probably going in a different direction as the team could be headed for a major makeover this winter.
The right-hander declined the $15.3 million qualifying offer and would cost the Mariners their first round draft pick, No. 21 overall, if they chose to sign him.
Hanley Ramirez is an upgrade for the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners need to upgrade their roster. On paper it makes plenty of sense and with available payroll it’s a definite possibility, but seems unlikely at this point.
If the bubble bursts and Ramirez sees his price tag fall to the five-year, $75 million range he’d be a more realistic fit for Seattle. However it’s much more likely that he receives the nine-figure contract he seeks and the contract becomes regrettable before Ramirez exits his prime years.