David Ortiz will retire at the end of 2016. That's the bad news. The good news is...
No, nevermind, there's no good news today. Today is not a day for good news. But this news has ramifications, and most of all for Hanley Ramirez.
Hanley's return to Boston in 2015 did not go well at all. After a huge offensive burst to start the season, Ramirez ran into a wall, hurt his shoulder, and began a four-month trip straight into the dog house. With his offense suffering, Hanley's perhaps historically terrible defense was suddenly that much harder to ignore. Growing pains turned into problems that demanded answers, and eventually, it was over, both his time in left field, and his season.
The Red Sox are heading into 2016 with Ramirez set to start at first base. Is he going to be good there? We don't know. There's a better chance of success there than in left field. After all, the demands of first are a lot closer to the demands of his old position at shortstop than those of left field. And while he was never a good defensive shortstop, the expectations of mobility at first are that much lower. If Ramirez can pick 'em, he might not even be a negative. Particularly looking like his old self, physically speaking:
Look who looks like he’s lost some weight. pic.twitter.com/SOaft75oEk— Joon Lee (@iamjoonlee) November 13, 2015
Just how much money do the Red Sox have?
The Red Sox have spent on a closer, and are ready to spend big on a starter. Where's it all coming from?
Really, though, with Ortiz calling it a career, the need for Hanley to succeed at first is that much less. Now he just needs to succeed at the plate. Yes, the 2016 Red Sox will be much better off if Hanley can be decent in the field. Yes, the Red Sox in general would like to have the flexibility of having a DH who can play a position more often than David Ortiz could. No, it's not absolutely necessary. Not so long as he can hit.
That last bit is, unfortunately, still in question. Ramirez hit just .249/.291/.426 last season, but that can be split into pieces: before the injury, when he hit .283/.340/.609, and after, when he hit just .239/.275/.372. One of those players is about as worthy a successor to Big Papi as you can hope for. The other is useless.
If Hanley Ramirez is healthy, and if a healthy Hanley Ramirez is some form of the old Hanley Ramirez, then suddenly the albatross contract that was starts to look that much more acceptable. In fact, he'll cost just $6 million more per year than David Ortiz will in 2016. It is, in many ways, the path we all expected this to take, just with an unfortunate bump to start the process. If it all goes according to plan.
Given that...well, there's no indication the Red Sox will be able to find their way out of any portion of either Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval's contracts this offseason. Or that they'd even be interested in subsidizing, say, half just to have the other half gone given the chance for a rebound. But if that's something they're interested in, suddenly Hanley Ramirez has become the clear choice to keep, and Sandoval the one to deal. Going from the possibility of needing to replace David Ortiz in the next couple years to the reality of this being his last season just makes that much of a difference.
Now it's on Hanley to make this all work out with a productive season, and on one of the [Sam (Travis] Shaw) duo to give them a suitable answer at first in 2017 and beyond.