Oct 6, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez (13) hits an RBI double during the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
The 2014 Cincinnati Reds were not a very good team even though shelled out their highest payroll ever. The starting pitching was surprising strong, but their efforts were undone by a shaky bullpen and, especially, a terrible offense. Big bats are few and far between this off-season, so the Reds may have to get creative to upgrade their lineup while also filling a hole in the outfield, particularly in left. One guy who is not an obvious candidate for the Reds but could help them get well is Los Angeles Dodgers free agent shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
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Why He’s Available
Ramirez just finished up a contract that the Dodgers inherited when they acquired him from the Florida Marlins in 2012, and LA did not make a serious attempt to extend him before he hit free agency. That likely owes to his relative fragility (110 games missed in 2013-14) and his desire to remain at shortstop event though he has never been great in the field. In recent years, he hasn’t been even adequate at SS, so the Dodgers may let him walk.
Why He Fits for the Reds
Ramirez remains a top offensive talent, posting double-digit home run totals and OPS+ figures way above league-average even over these last two injury-plagued seasons. Even better, as Buster Olney opines at ESPN.com, Ramirez finally seems open to changing positions, including to the corner outfield slots.
If the Reds slotted Ramirez in left field, he would be a significant upgrade over Ryan Ludwick and would probably be fine (or better) defensively.
He would also be on hand should shortstop Zack Cozart lose any of the defensive brilliance that has thus far kept him in the lineup despite hitting the ball like your Sunday school teacher.
Why He Might NOT Fit for the Reds
Ramirez will be 31 years old next season, which is not old, but which definitely puts him at the outer edges of his peak and more likely in his decline phase. He is more likely than not to continue running into nagging injuries that rob him of playing time, though a switch to the outfield could help on that front.
The knockout blow for the Reds’ chances of acquiring Ramirez is the salary and length of contract he is likely to command. Zach Links at MLBTradeRumors.com predicts a six-year, $132-million deal which seems high to me for a guy who hasn’t played a full season in two years, and only twice in five years.
Still, Ramirez will be too expensive for the Reds.
Ramirez would fit well in the Reds’ lineup and probably in left field, but the cost and risk are both just way too high.