In a stunning turn of events, the Boston Red Sox have designated first baseman/designated hitter Hanley Ramirez for assignment according to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe and other sources. Ramirez was batting .254 with six homers and 29 RBI on the year, but a combination of second baseman Dustin Pedroia coming back from offseason knee surgery and a May in which Ramirez hit just .163 made the front office’s decision easy.
Boston now has seven days to trade or release Ramirez, with the latter option more likely considering his $22m salary for 2018. Once he hits the market, teams can sign him for the pro-rated league minimum.
And despite his struggles, the 34-year-old Ramirez still can do enough with his bat that more than a few teams could look to add him as a first baseman, DH, or even as a big bat off the bench. Which teams, you ask? Well, these five come to mind in particular!
1 Colorado Rockies
At this stage of his career, Ramirez will want to play wherever he has a good chance to win and Colorado provides that. The Rockies currently hold a half-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West and with first baseman Ian Desmond hitting just .181 despite eight homers and 23 RBI, an upgrade is very much needed.
Ramirez isn't a strong defensive first baseman, but his powerful swing inside a home run haven like Coors Field could immediately help Colorado create some distance in the division race early on.
There's just one complication, and that is Desmond's contract. He signed a five-year, $70m contract prior to the 2017 season and his Rocky Mountain tenure has been defined by underperformance and injuries. The Rockies have a prospect in waiting in Ryan McMahon, but he has struggled on the MLB level thus far.
Thus, by sticking Desmond on the bench and taking a low-risk chance on Ramirez, Colorado could solve its problems at first base easily. If things don't work out, Ramirez can just be released at a low cost.
2 Seattle Mariners
The Mariners don't really have a spot for Ramirez, what with Ryon Healy manning first base and Nelson Cruz owning the DH spot, but that doesn't take away from one key truth: Seattle needs bats, and badly. Slugging second baseman Robinson Cano is not only on the disabled list with a broken hand, but also serving a PED suspension that will keep him off the field until late summer. Speedster Dee Gordon is also out with a broken toe.
Despite that, Seattle could use Ramirez in a bench role. The Mariners rank 11th in runs scored, which isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but are just three games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West. A big bat like Ramirez's would be a fine addition, particularly with Cruz batting just .222 on the year and .161 in May.
3 Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are an interesting place for Ramirez because though they're in third place in the AL East and ten games behind Boston, they are just two games under .500. Tampa Bay also has CJ Cron and Brad Miller trading off between first base and the DH spot, and Cron has done well to the point of batting .271 with 11 home runs.
Miller is another story. He is batting just .248 with four home runs and 15 RBI on the year. Yes, his being a lefty bat provides the Rays with a nice platoon option with Cron also in the picture, but Ramirez could be a fit here too. Cron isn't a strong defensive first baseman, but he can hold his own there enough that manager Kevin Cash could explore using a platoon of Miller and Ramirez at DH, with Ramirez starting against lefties initially.
Or, Tampa Bay can just part ways with Miller and take a chance on Ramirez. This isn't a likely destination based on division, but it's one Ramirez should consider anyway.
4 Houston Astros
The Astros are the defending World Series champs and own the top spot in the AL West, but there's room for improvement and Hanley Ramirez can help. Regular DH Evan Gattis is proving to be a one-trick pony at the plate, except the power numbers aren't there this year. He is batting just .213 with four homers and 15 RBI in 134 plate appearances and though his power is strong when it's there; he is of no value to Houston if he's not hitting.
Enter Ramirez, whose powerful swing would be a prime fit at Minute Maid Park. Not only that, Red Sox skipper Alex Cora was Houston's bench coach last year and would certainly put in a good word for his recently DFA'd slugger with manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow.
5 New York Mets
The Mets are probably the best overall fit for Ramirez, particularly if playing in the field is one of his priorities. New York has started three different men at first base this season, with Adrian Gonzalez leading the way with 30 starts, and the trio have put up a combined defensive WAR of -0.6.
Granted, Gonzalez is batting just .263 with five home runs and 20 RBI, but he is a ticking time bomb from an injury standpoint and has a long history of back issues. Last year, he was even considering retirement because of his back.
The good news for the Mets is that if GM Sandy Alderson feels so inclined, he can release Gonzalez at a low cost and, if Ramirez is signed, move Jay Bruce to first base and start a platoon between the two there. This allows prospect Brandon Nimmo to get more at-bats in the outfield and not be stuck on the bench.
There's no telling where Ramirez will wind up at this point but if and when he hits the market, one must assume the Mets will come a-calling.
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