By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
When Ben Cherington inked Hanley Ramirez to a four year contract worth $88M, with a vesting option for a fifth at $22M, I didn’t initially have a problem with it. When they said he was going to convert to left field, I thought that was fine too. After all, he is a former short stop, probably the most difficult position to play within the majors, so it shouldn’t have been too tough of a transition, right? Not to mention Manny Ramirez was our left fielder for the better part of eight seasons, and he wasn’t a great defender.
Well it failed. Miserably. Some blame Cherington for making that move in the first place. Some blame Hanley for a lack of effort. I believe it’s a combination of both. The main problem looming large over Boston, is the fact that if the current 1B/DH reaches 497 at bats in 2018, his $22M option for 2019 will vest. Many fans believe in the notion that Hanley could simply be released without consequences. This is untrue.
Here’s what will actually happen if he were to simply be straight up released:
1- Hanley will be eligible to sign with any team he wants for the major league minimum ($550K).
2- The Red Sox will still be on the hook for his full $22M in 2018
3- AND… worst of all… his 2019 option will STILL vest if he gets 497 with another team at Boston’s expense.
So as you are now becoming aware, it’s not in Boston’s best interest to release him at this very moment. Most likely an American League team like Toronto, Texas, Cleveland, or even Oakland would swoop in and sign him for practically nothing. His option almost certainly would vest, and the Red Sox would be shooting themselves in the foot.
Ideally, if Boston wins the war with Scott Boras and signs free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, we could see a platoon situation between Hanley and Moreland at first base. In which case by July, there wouldn’t be enough regular season games remaining for Hanley to reach his magic number of 497. Once this takes place, the Red Sox will be able to cut ties without any possible consequences if they so desire.
Unlike Pablo Sandoval, who was mercifully released last season, Hanley still has value and is capable of performing at the major league level. He is not exactly the most expendable player either, like for instance Brock Holt or Devin Marrero. The Red Sox need all the power they can get in their lineup.
I despise Hanley Ramirez as a middle of the order bat. He has never been clutch in big moments like Manny or Papi were. His mind seems to go straight to Jupiter the moment he steps in the batter’s box. However, I would be able to tolerate him one final season if he bats in the bottom third of the order, say the seven or eight hole. At that point his 20+ home runs and 80+ RBI’s are a bonus.
NONE of us want him beyond 2018, and hopefully we won’t.
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