The Marlins tried to send Hanley Ramirez packing to Boston a week ago in the rumored blockbuster that also involved Heath Bell and Carl Crawford, but the Red Sox reportedly killed that negotiation moments after hearing it start. That hasn't stopped the Marlins from trying to shop Ramirez, though, and according to Ken Rosenthal, hasn't quelled Boston's interest in the former shortstop, either.
Third baseman Hanley Ramirez could be the next to go; the Marlins tried to send him to theBoston Red Sox last week, and he could interest the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics and other clubs, makeup questions and all.
Bob Nightengale has also chimed in to say the Red Sox are interested, so this isn't an isolated mention. Setting aside what it would cost to acquire Ramirez for a moment, let's look at what a team would actually be getting. Ramirez is in the middle of a six-year, $70 million contract. He has what's left to him of 2012's $15 million payout due, as well as $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014. There are no incentives besides a $50,000 All-Star bonus, no options, and no buyouts. It's a straightforward deal for a player who has been anything but the last few years.
Ramirez hit a combined .313/.385/.521 from age 22 in 2006 through his age 26 campaign in 2010. His 2011 was a disappointment, though, with questions about hustle and drive circling his career-worst .243/.333/.379 line. He's picked things back up to a degree in 2012, bumping his line to .246/.322/.430 and an OPS+ of 100, but that's not the Hanley of old.
It's not an awful shortstop to have around either, though. Mike Aviles has hit .272/.296/.415 for an OPS+ of 87 during his 132 games with the Red Sox, and there aren't many cries to depose him from the shortstop throne. Expectations are just lower at that position than at others -- you don't need to hit and play defense to justify a job there, you just need to do one of the two pretty well. Aviles has been a bit below-average at the plate, but has also fielded surprisingly well. Ramirez, historically, is a poor defensive shortstop, but previously used to crush the ball there.
Anyone taking Hanley's contract is also taking on a player with makeup issues, but, in the right setting, he might thrive. His initial explosion onto the big-league scene, one which was even bigger and brighter than scouts who loved him believed it would be, was credited as being as simple as getting him out of small, low attendance minor-league parks, and into the spotlight of the majors. Getting him out of Miami, where he has been criticized, where he's been asked to change positions, and where the park is rarely crowded despite it's shiny newness, could be just what is needed to get some of the old Hanley back.
It's a risk, to assume that will happen. But if Ramirez is going to be an average-ish shortstop anyway, and the price won't be overly high given the Marlins would be selling off a player they've tired of who is still owed considerable money, then there are reasons to mull it over. As with any other deal that gets the Sox a player for more than just 2012, one hopes that none of the organization's top five prospects or so are involved, especially since Ramirez is something of a wild card. But to ignore him completely in favor of keeping all of the team's prospects, when there are so many who might never even turn into what this lesser version of Hanley is, never mind what he's shown himself capable of in the past, would be foolish.
Ramirez is still just 28, so he's not exactly an old man that the Red Sox would be wrongly hoping comes around again. And there's a chance that, knowing this, the Marlins still ask for a heavy bounty of prospects in return for Ramirez, despite the $37 million or so still owed to the infielder. But there's no harm in picking up the phone to see what the price is, especially not for a player who would be around for more than just 2012 as a rental.
This is especially true with Jose Iglesias hitting .256/.305/.291 in Pawtucket, Xander Bogaerts still expected to move off of shortstop as he ages (not that he would be ready until the time Ramirez's deal is up, anyway), and most of the rest of Boston's potential future shortstops populating the lower levels. Mike Aviles is certainly a tolerable option at short, and an inexpensive one, too. But on a roster with a core that's very clearly in place for the next few years, shortstop is a spot where the team could upgrade. Hanley has his question marks, and would come at a price, but he does represent a potential upgrade at short.
That doesn't mean the Sox will go out and get Hanley Ramirez. Remember that a week ago it took assuming Heath Bell's deal as well in order to get it done, and that just isn't appealing. But if the Red Sox can cobble together the right group of prospects, and assume the money in the deal, something worthwhile might just go down.