Hanley Ramirez not ideal for M’s

 As expected, the Seattle Mariners have been linked to free agent Hanley Ramirez. He’s a player the club has had some level of interest in for a few years, and understandably so, he hits. He’s also right-handed and plays shortstop, so on the surface he sounds like a fantastic fit for any team that doesn’t have a present-and-future stalwart at the position.

Not so fast. I’m not saying the club shouldn’t have interest and I’m not saying Ramirez doesn’t fit at all, but he’s simply not ideal.

Ramirez is well below average defensively and will be 31 years of age next month, suggesting he’s not getting better with the glove and most likely is on an overall decline that ends only when he changes position or retires. He’s expressed a willingness to move off shortstop, Jon Heyman reported last week, but for Seattle that only helps if he profiles in the outfield. Ramirez isn’t an outfielder and it’s a waste to move to him to first base since he’s still going to cost shortstop (or at least third base) money.

The Mariners do not have one of those clear-cut, proven, now-and-future shortstops, but Ramirez is not ideal for Seattle. If we assume some of the projections of Ramirez’s contract are correct, he’s a $15-17 million per year player for at least four years, all guaranteed. Kyle Seager is, hopefully, in Seattle for the long haul at third base, which means Ramirez can’t just slide over a few feet and handle the hot corner for the Mariners.

The M’s have given indications that they are willing to bump payroll again this year, but there are going to be limits to how high they will go for 2015. Handing Ramirez $15 million does three things, only one of them good. He improves the lineup, no doubt. But he makes the defense worse and he gobbles up valuable financial resources that can be used instead on players that are upgrades offensively, don’t downgrade the defense markedly and also do not block younger, capable players.

Brad Miller and/or Chris Taylor may very well be the answer at shortstop. At the very least they provide league average overall production, and there’s big upside with Miller’s bat. In 2014, the pair led the M’s to a 3.0 fWAR, No. 7 in the 15-team American League.

Adding Ramirez and therefore being unable to acquire at least one outfielder — because the financial resources don’t allow for it, for example — and blocking the capable youth at shortstop is not the best use of the club’s resources. If that kind of money is available, it’d be more ideal to give some or all of it to a player that plays a position for which the Mariners don’t have viable answer — such as the outfield and designated hitter.

Ask yourself: would you rather have Ramirez at shortstop and one average outfield or designated hitter upgrade or get an above-average outfielder, an average or better DH and use Miller-Taylor at shortstop?

Seems like a no-brainer.

Of course, beggars can’t be choosers, some will say, and that’s true. The M’s need offense and it’d be a disaster to fail miserably and acquire no significant help in that area. In the end, however, Ramirez is not headed in the right direction with the glove or the bat, and in a vacuum might not be a very good free agent signing for anyone.

Seattle is going to have interest in pretty much every right-handed hitter out there, free agent or trade, either league, no matter the contract situation. Making the most if their available funds always will be key to any sustained success, though, so unless they plan on attacking it all with bottomless pockets, the Mariners should not have Ramirez near the top of their wish list.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

4 Comments

  1. Waiting is for losers, to be frank. The “apparent” market can change in the 2015 off-season. You go for what you know, not what you think could happen.

    That said, I don’t expect the M’s to go spend money this off-season, just to spend it. If they can get someone like Victor Martinez on a four or five year deal, and it’s not a staggering amount of money, then go do it. Or, if Ramirez is willing to play outfield/DH/back-up infielder, then why not?

    There are no perfect fits out there, but there are fits that can help.

  2. As much as it pains me to say this because I want them to be a contender next year, I believe it’s in the M’s best interest to wait until 2015 off-season to go guns blazing and sign a couple of superstars. Next years class is loaded compared to this years, buys like Upton, Heyward, Gordon and Cespedes are all available and that’s just the OF’s.

  3. Get ready to hear Seattle “linked” to just about every free agent. I am sure Jack will “kick the tires” on just about everyone, that doesn’t mean a move will happen. Plus our front office is soooo tight lipped you know the rumors are coming from agents, and agents are just doing their jobs, trying to make it sound like there is great demand for their client. Ramirez is not going to be a Mariner!

  4. Jason,

    I agree with everything you say. I don’t think Ramirez fits with the M’s as a SS given his terrible defense, the fact that we have good SS depth on the team, and needs in the OF and DH that are more pressing.

    However, the big question with Ramirez is whether or not he’s willing and able to play in the OF. He’s a good athlete, and I think its not unreasonable to assume that he could play at least average (if not above) defense in LF. The question is thus: is he worth that contract as an outfielder?

    One of the biggest issues with Ramirez is his inconsistency. He’s had multiple >.900 OPS seasons, but in the last few years he’s been all over the place. He hit .345./.402/.638 in a half season in 2013, then dipped down to .283/.369/.448 last year. Steamer projects him to hit .277/.352/.450 next year. Those numbers probably don’t warrant the type of salary he’s likely to get if he’s playing OF. However, if he hits at his average career levels of .300/.370/.500, he might be worth it.

    Regardless, I think the best question isn’t if Ramirez is a good bet at SS for us. Instead, its whether he’s worth it as an OFer. All in all, I think someone like Yasmani Tomas or trading for Matt Kemp probably makes more sense.

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