By signing Jose Reyes Sunday night, the Marlins set up an interesting situation in their infield. Reyes, the top shortstop of the free agent class and a legitimate superstar in his own right (when healthy) will have to find some way to coexist with incumbent starting shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Of course, anytime we are given reason to, Red Sox fans will jump on the possibility of acquiring Hanley Ramirez. The "one that got away," Ramirez represents one of the greatest "what if" scenarios in recent Red Sox history, especially when you consider the often-times terrible play at short in the years since he was traded away.
Now, for many players this situation wouldn't necessarily inspire massive trade rumors, but Hanley has never been the most settled or mature of players down in Florida. He's had his run-ins with managers before, and is quick to take offense to slights real or imagined. So, when the franchise brings in for $106 million a top player at his position after a down year, it's not hard to see Ramirez becoming disgruntled.
It doesn't help that there's already talk that he's not happy about a move to third base.
So, with all this in mind, could the Marlins look to move Hanley? Could the Sox be a landing spot? And should we want this to happen in the first place?
Interestingly, this happens in one of the few years the Red Sox have no real need to go looking for help at shortstop. Thanks to Marco Scutaro's strong 2011, the team can for once feel relatively secure in that roster spot. But it doesn't seem terribly likely that the team would let that stop them from making a move for Ramirez given the right circumstances. Coming off of a year where he posted a mediocre line of .243/.333/.379, Ramirez' price isn't likely to be lower anytime soon.
Of course, a bad year does create some question marks. Luck does seem to be partly to blame, with a BABIP a good 60 points below his career average, but his line drive numbers were at a career low, and continue a troubling trend from 2010 which saw decreased fly ball and power numbers. Hanley has topped 50% in ground balls in each of the last two years, so while the actual power and strength is still there, he's not making the solid contact needed to produce results.
It's also concerning how his season ended: with an injury to a shoulder that has plagued him for years. While it hasn't resulted in much missed time until this year, the idea that it's a one-off just because of the way it happened (diving for a ball) doesn't really hold up under too much scrutiny.
The argument for Ramirez is simple enough. With 31 WAR in six seasons, Ramirez is one of the elites, to be sure. He's far from solid defensively, but his bat in good years is the sort that you'd expect to find in left field or at first base. He'd bring the right-handed threat the Sox seem to crave, and with three years left on his contract the Sox can afford to delay any sort of extension until they have more financial flexibility (he will still cost a good amount, but his luxury tax figure hit is a more reasonable $11.6 million) and are more certain he's the Hanley Ramirez they've seen on the field in years past.
However, there's always the trade cost to think of, and it's not entirely clear the Sox can afford Hanley. The fact is that the Marlins aren't going to be looking for prospects right now--the franchise is out to win right away in a clear departure from their past philosophy. The new stadium demands stars, and it's hard to see that the Red Sox can provide that. The one name that would really make for an interesting swap is Jacoby Ellsbury, given the Marlins' need in center, but it's questionable that the Sox would make that deal straight-up given the aforementioned injury issues and Ellsbury's popularity.
It's also hard to believe I just said the Sox would hesitate to deal Jacoby Ellsbury for Hanley Ramirez. Last year was weird.
The other options would also be a bit odd. The Sox could try sending Kevin Youkilis their way, maybe with one of Reddick/Kalish and/or some mid-level prospects if necessary. Of course, that would mean that the Sox would be trading a big right-handed bat with injury questions for a big right-handed bat with injury questions, but the team has a bit more certain of a future at third base in Will Middlebrooks than they do at shortstop with Jose Iglesias, and Hanley at his heights is better than Youkilis at his heights. Marco Scutaro would slide over to third, hopefully keeping his arm strong enough to make the long throws.
The last issue to consider is the matter of Hanley Ramirez in the clubhouse. The fact is that the Red Sox need stabilizing influences there right now, and with a guy like Bobby Valentine coming in, Ramirez could end up being something of a time bomb. Now, if you believe what certain clubhouse sources were saying, then getting Kevin Youkilis out and bringing Hanley in could be something of an even trade there, but I think I'd take Youkilis' abrasiveness born from passion before Ramirez' apparent immaturity.
It's an unusual thing to write about Hanley Ramirez with anything short of avarice, but that's the position I find myself in right now. He's a terrific player when he's 100%, to be sure, but there are just so many reasons to be worried. The shoulder doesn't seem to be going away, he's had two straight down years, and with the Sox seemingly in something of a financial bind, he doesn't solve any of the problems that really need to be fixed. The Sox should absolutely kick the tires given the situation the Marlins could find themselves in, but it's hard to imagine that the Sox are the right fit here.