Red Sox Must Decide on Hanley

With all of the shockwaves that the Boston Red Sox have created so far this offseason, the festering problem the team has on its hands seems to be going by the wayside — Hanley Ramirez.

Question after question surrounds his future. Dave Dombrowski has many choices to pick from, but only a minuscule chance of picking the right one.

Should the Red Sox trade Hanley? Should they have him play first base? Should they let him play the outfield again and get one more shot at it? Should they keep him around so in 2017, when David Ortiz retires, he can take over as DH?

All of these questions will continue to dog Dombrowski and the Red Sox until there is more clarity on the future of last year’s big free-agent “prize.”

Unless they do one thing.

Trade him. Get rid of him. If they have to eat most of his salary to do so, then so be it.

It’s a must. It’s better than having him just sit there on the roster as a waste of money. Putting Hanley at first would be a colossal mistake that would become more of a negative than a positive to the team. Putting him back in the outfield? Oh, God. Travis Shaw has earned the start at first for the beginning of 2016.

In regards to Ramirez’s actual ability to field balls at first base, that still is a huge question mark. Can he catch fly balls on the right side of the infield? Can he scoop bad throws in the dirt? Can he dive for grounders? Can he even catch a simple throw from around the infield? Judging from his dedication to learning the outfield, I can’t imagine it would be much different at first.

Which leads me to my next point.

If the Red Sox want to get back to the postseason, will having Hanley Ramirez on the roster help?

There’s no way to actually be able to tell what his affect will be on the Sox’ run at the postseason, but, judging from what we’ve seen, it can’t be a good one. At this point in his career, he is greatly reduced offensively from his peak and is a festering malcontent in the clubhouse.

When the Red Sox signed Ramirez, they knew he wasn’t the easiest to deal with. But they knew they had the one player in the entire league who could help drive Hanley to be his best: David Ortiz.

And it worked — for all of one month. Hanley had a monster April and then completely fell off the map. After April and the shoulder injury that sidelined him for much of May, Hanley kind of just went with the flow, took his at-bats, and just didn’t live up to the money he was paid last year, all $22 million of it.

Hanley being Hanley.

During the third home game of the season, when the Sox played the Washington Nationals, Wilson Ramos hit a ball down the third base line with the bases loaded. I was sitting along the third base line, and remember thinking what was taking Hanley so long in the corner. By the time he fielded the ball and threw it into the infield, I could have gone to the bathroom, and waited in line to buy a Fenway Frank and still would have been back in time to watch him chuck the ball in.

Ramos got a stand up triple on that play. And Ramos is no Dee Gordon. Not even close. He’s a catcher, for crying out loud. Not even Evan Gattis legs out triples down the left field line. That play was in April, which is when players are at their freshest. You have to wonder what he’ll be like in October — especially with the stakes as high as they will be for the Red Sox.

I want to leave you with one final question to ponder over — would the Red Sox have won their World Series in 2013 had Hanley Ramirez been on the roster? That team was driven like no other, despite the moderate payroll and just above-average talent. The chemistry and pure desire to win was what did it.

That’s how teams win the World Series.

Does Hanley have what it takes to play eight solid months of baseball while keeping a happy smile on his face behind closed doors?

We don’t know yet, but I’m hoping we find that out with him in a uniform other than one that says “Red Sox” across the front of it.

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