The Boston Red Sox certainly are not in the position they imagined they would be after their big offseason. Over halfway through the season’s third month they find themselves in the A.L. East cellar, nine games back and sporting a 28-39 record. Following seven brutal losses, all in the span of one week, the Sox finally broke out their funk and chose to play baseball for a whole nine innings.
But among all of Boston’s problems there’s one big one in left field, and no, it’s not the Green Monster. It’s the player standing in front of it. The problem is Hanley Ramirez. The Red Sox left fielder was highly regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball when he was coming up through Boston’s system in the early 2000’s. Then he was traded to the Marlins in 2005 to acquire Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to help with their championship endeavors.
Since 2006, Hanley has made a name for himself as one of the game’s best power hitters. So when he told Boston that he’d be willing to “come home” following the 2014 season and even change positions, the Red Sox jumped on the opportunity and signed him to a five-year, $95 million contract. Were they signing him to play shortstop? Nope. DH? Maybe, but not all the time. Third base? Guess again. No, Boston decided it would be a good idea to have the injury-plagued shortstop start a new career as a left fielder in Fenway Park.
No, nobody could have possibly thought that Hanley was going to be Carl Yastrzemski with his glove out there, but he couldn’t possibly play worse left field than Manny Ramirez, could he? Hanley, however, has done just that and more. Let me put this in perspective for you. The 31-year-old is the worst defensive player in the game. Yes, HanRam ranks 155th out of the 155 position players in the game in Ultimate Zone Rating. The absolute worst fielder in the whole game.
Though Ramirez has striking power and can hit very well, (.270/.320/.465, 114 wRC+) his defensive abilities are so atrocious that he actually has given the Red Sox -0.6 Wins Above Replacement. Hanley ranks among the best with his peers in left field offensively. Among qualified left fielders, Hanley is 9th wRC+ (114) , 6th in ISO (.195), 10th in K% (14.2%) and 9th in wOBA (.338). His defense, however, has been so bad as to render his offensive contributions irrelevant.
Regardless of these metrics, Hanley Ramirez needs to get out of Boston. As weird as it sounds, this team could possibly thrive without him there. It’s very unlikely that he would switch back to the infield after transitioning to the outfield, so the only value he really holds in a trade is if he were a designated hitter.
Despite his numbers so far this season, David Ortiz, who has recently been on a hot streak, is this team’s DH for probably the next two seasons, like it or not, so there’s no room for Hanley there. What value are you giving the team by keeping Hanley in left field? You are actually hurting the team. Eat some of the contract so a deal can be worked out with some team who needs a power hitter/DH.
What will the outfield look like if Hanley is eventually traded? Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley is absolutely killing it again in Triple-A Pawtucket this year, while leading position players in the International League’s All-Star voting. In 43 games he’s hitting .333/.406/.497 with 16 doubles, four home runs, and five stolen bases. He also owns a .903 OPS and a 167 wRC+. Yes, obviously his hitting skills have not yet translated to the Major Leagues, but that’s why it would be a good thing to let him get some regular at-bats at the major league level. If he’s still not hitting that well, his glove will give you more than Hanley’s bat no doubt. You can even platoon him in right field with the right-handed hitting Rusney Castillo.
The on top of all of his defensive woes, Hanley simply doesn’t hustle. He makes mental errors all the time and nonchalantly jogs down balls in the field. Why do the Red Sox, with all of their youth, have him as an example. We shouldn’t want Blake Swihart, Castillo, and Betts watching this “superstar” and let them think that the effort he gives day in and day out is an okay example of how a star can act. Hanley needs to be traded, and if I were Boston, I would be making a deal for him as soon as I could.
With his contract, it seems like it would be nearly impossible for the Red Sox to trade Ramirez. Of course, the same was true of Carl Crawford three years ago.