By MyFM's Jake Archer - As I mentioned during my post about the series between the Red Sox and Braves, Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment on Friday. The news came down around noon and shocked everyone, with many people having different takes on the subject. Personally, I hated the move and I continue to hate it for a variety of reasons.
With Dustin Pedroia coming back to the Sox for the first time this season, everyone knew that a move would have to be made on Friday to free up a roster spot for him. I think most thought that the move would involve a trade of Blake Swihart or dumping someone like Brock Holt. Holt, for as much as people like him, is only useful because he can play pretty much any position besides pitcher or catcher. Swihart has been a failed prospect that the Sox ruined and he seemed destined to be sent off for nothing to a place where a change of scenery would inevitably make him a very good major leaguer (and infuriate Red Sox fans). The organization had converted him from catcher and made him somewhat of utility guy, yet he wasn't getting any playing time. His bat is decent enough, but nothing to go crazy over.
Boston also could have decided JBJ was the one to go. I mean, they guy hasn't hit the ball all year long and he's becoming a drain on the offense. Are they really that into his defense (which is overrated) and they had to keep him? Okay fine, then throw someone on the disabled list! Or get rid of Eduardo Nunez, I don't know. That would work too!
Anyway, instead of making a move with a bench player, the Sox decided to get rid of their starting first baseman who had been batting in the three-hole for them for most of the year. What? Why? This made literally zero sense and I started to try to run through reasons why this would be done. Was there a behind the scenes issue in the clubhouse? What about a suspension coming down the pipe? There had to be something big, otherwise a contending team just letting an impact go for nothing would be stupid.
Literally, they were getting rid of him for nothing. By designating him for assignment, the Sox were just walking away from Hanley and deciding they were willing to eat the $15 million that they owed him for the remainder of the season. Sure, they had/have a week to trade him before he is released into the free agent pool, but no team in their right mind is going to take on the rest of his contract when they could just wait it out and get him for a fraction of that. I guess that's what Boston was willing to do, just let him walk.
At first I saw a lot of people reacting to this and saying it was a good move and guess what? In the long-term, it is! Hanley had a $22 million option for 2019 that would kick in if he reached 500 plate appearances, and with his use thus far this season, he was on pace to eclipse that mark by quite a bit. We don't really want to pay a good but not great Hanley Ramirez another $22 million next year when we can instead use that money to go out into a deep free agent market that features the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado or re-sign our stars that will need contracts soon like Mookie Betts. So I get it, letting Hanley's option kick in was not something we wanted to do.
However, why were we using him as much as we had been through the first two months of the season? If you don't want his option to kick in, slow him down and don't have him in the lineup every day. At this point, even if you make the mistake of using him too much and you're staring at having him smash that number of plate appearances, dial him back. I know that the team says that they were worried about how he'd react to having his playing time cut, but you have to at least try. He's a talented enough player that you can't just cut ties with him based on something you are assuming. If you tell him he's moving into a part-time role and he creates an issue in the clubhouse a week into the arrangement, then you can justify sending him out the door. Not like this though.
I know that Hanley had a bit of an up-and-down tenure in Boston. He was signed to a big money deal entering the 2015 season and he was supposed to play left field. Instead, he decided he didn't want to play left after agreeing to it and sucked worse than anyone I've ever seen attempt to play a position in baseball. Not only that, but he got hurt and then his production at the plate was bad. It was an unmitigated disaster in a terrible Red Sox season. Once 2016 hit, the Sox told Hanley he could play first for a year before taking over as the team's DH when David Ortiz retired. Hanley's attitude improved, he wasn't bad at first and he ended up mashing the ball and earning AL MVP votes. We'd now seen the good and the bad, and things would continue to fluctuate.
In 2017, Ramirez decided he was done ever playing first and just wanted to hit. The problem was, he was hurt again and he was terrible at the plate. The only silver lining for him was that he still mashed against the Yankees and showed up in the playoffs. 2018 would probably be his last year in Boston and we were going to get whatever we could out of him as a first base/DH combo. So far, Hanley had been a good soldier as far as attitude and his play had been decent enough. He came into camp in great shape and vowed to hit 30 homers while swiping 30 bags (I know, I'm laughing too). Overall though his attitude was good and you could tell that winning and playing in Boston meant something to him. In April, he was the best hitter in Boston's lineup but in May he cooled off considerably. That's how we got here.
Players have slumps and Hanley was in a deep one in May. He went hitless in his last series with the Sox down in Tampa Bay and while Mitch Moreland was mashing, Alex Cora wanted to switch things up. I don't blame him for wanting to change how the playing time was being distributed, but getting rid of Hanley altogether was a dumb move. Regardless of how the guy is peforming, he's a big name to have in that lineup. He scares people more than a Swihart or a Holt or even a Moreland. I know Moreland is playing at an All Star level, but Hanley brings something extra. He performs when the lights are on and he can change a game. When rival GM's are questioning the move, and YANKEES FANS are ecstatic, you have to know it's dumb. New York was scared of Hanley and now they could conceivably go out and sign him for a low cost if Hanley wants to get back at the Sox.
That's the thing too, Hanley has a right to be pissed. Cora and Dombrowski blindsided him over money that they didn't want to pay in a contract that they signed! I'll honestly be interested to see how Ramirez reacts and where he goes. It's going to be a contender and a motivated Hanley is a good Hanley. In a contract year, after having his favorite team spit in his face, I'd watch out. Just know that most of the fans (and weirdly enough the media) love you here big guy. Take it easy on us and go somewhere like the Mariners.
*If you are the best team in baseball, you need to be looking to get better. You can't intentionally make yourself worse regardless of if you feel that in the here and now your offense is fine. Guys like JD Martinez and Mookie Betts are hitting at a superhuman clip and you can't expect them to continue all year long. I swear, that bottom part of the lineup is going to haunt us and we'll wish we had Hanley when it matters.
**Say that we got rid of Hanley Ramirez because we believe in Blake Swihart out loud and try not to laugh.