I See You Back in Blue Hanley Ramirez
Everyone thinks that Hanley Ramirez is as good as gone. The Dodgers should absolutely bring back Hanley Ramirez next year. Hanley has been one of the best offensive shortstops the Dodgers have had play for them in many years. Without Hanley, and without replacing his offense in the Dodgers lineup, the team will be hard pressed to succeed in 2015. Barring a significant trade for a productive shortstop, I don’t see the Dodgers letting Hanley go to the American League without at least putting an offer on the table.
The Dodgers were in contract talks with Hanley last offseason but nothing was hammered out before Opening Day. Without knowing any of the inside details on the talks, I can only speculate that the two sides never came to an agreement on a number and or length of new contract. Perhaps the Dodgers wanted to see how Hanley held up in 2014 after playing in just 86 games for them in 2013. Fair enough.
Hanley played in 128 games for the Dodgers in 2014, and he was fourth on the team with 13 homeruns and a .283 batting average. He was second to Puig with a .369 OBP, third in stolen bases (14), tied with Adrian Gonzalez in second with 56 walks, and third in RBIs (71). Getting that type of production from your shortstop is indeed rare, and finding a replacement would be virtually impossible on the free agent market.
Hanley’s defense was not even an issue during the NLDS like everyone feared. In fact he made a couple of fine plays at shortstop to prevent more damage done by St. Louis. Ramirez hit .429 with 6 hits in 14 at-bats during the NLDS. He’s one of the best postseason hitters in the game today with a .356/.453/.578 slash line over three postseason series. I shudder to think that the Dodgers will be so quick to let Hanley go to the evil Yankees or some other American League team to DH.
If the Dodgers and Hanley don’t reach a compromise on a deal (since I see Hanley absolutely turning down a qualifying
Oct 6, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez (13) reacts after the St. Louis Cardinals won in game three of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game 3-1 at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
offer), then who would play shortstop in 2015? The options are not really confidence inducing.
Miguel Rojas, the nine-year .238 hitting minor leaguer, cannot be the starting shortstop for the Dodgers next season in replacement of Hanley Ramirez. I think that option is laughable to be honest. Sure, Rojas has a slick glove, but he’s not ever going to be a great offensive player at the Major League level. Rojas is fine as a defensive substitute or seventh day starter. I’m okay with that, but losing Hanley’s bat would be a big blow to the Dodger lineup. That would be an offensive black hole.
Corey Seager isn’t ready. He may get a token September call-up next year, if that. I really don’t see him ready until 2016. Even when he’s ready to come up, he probably will be playing more third base anyhow.
Until Seager is ready, I don’t want to Band Aid the hole left by Hanley with Rojas, Erisbel Arruebarrena or Alex Guerrero. I think Guerrero would be fine at second base, but I don’t think he is a viable option at shortstop. Even though many feel his defense isn’t sharp or even bad, I don’t believe that at all. When I saw Guerrero working out at second base alongside Dee Gordon during Spring Training last year, I thought he was decent and could even be considered for the Opening Day roster. I still don’t know where Guerrero will fit in, but I don’t think it will be at shortstop.
My idea for 2015 would be to sign Hanley Ramirez to play shortstop until Corey Seager is ready, and use Erisbel Arruebarrena as his defensive back up. Arruebarrena is the sharpest shortstop the Dodgers have, and I feel like he could be an excellent addition to the team next year. Unfortunately, Arruebarrena is never going to be a great hitter like Hanley Ramirez, but that’s okay too. Since we already know that Hanley can’t physically play all 162 games, the Dodgers can use Erisbel for the remainder to rest Hanley and keep him sharp and healthy. Any offensive production from Arruebarrena would be a plus, yet his swing did not look great during his brief stint this past season.
Letting one of the greatest offensive shortstops walk without having a productive replacement will only hurt the team. This is a team which struggled to be consistent with the bat over the course of the season, and Hanley Ramirez remained one of the best offensive players on the team even though his defense lacked. With Erisbel as a late inning defensive back up and occasional starter, the Dodgers could keep Hanley’s threatening bat in the lineup while still shoring up the defense when needed. Unless a trade for a shortstop is in the works, letting Hanley go would weaken the team considerably.