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Hanley Ramirez Rumors
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe conducted a Q&A with Red Sox CEO/president Larry Lucchino over the weekend, and the two discussed a number of issues with what has been an uninspiring roster for much of the season. Shaugnessy notes early on, before getting to the Q&A, that it seems that Lucchino’s role has diminished given his involvement in the building of a new Rhode Island stadium for the club’s Triple-A affiliate and his role in Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics. Lucchino, however, denies that he’s less involved than in previous years. “I’ve had to throw myself into Pawtucket quite a bit because of [PawSox owner] Jim Skeffington’s death,” said Lucchino. “…It’s part of my Red Sox responsibility. The Olympics take a very small amount of my time. They asked me to take a larger role, but I demurred.”
Some roster-related highlights from the Q&A, as well as a couple other notes pertaining to the 2013 champs…
- Lucchino said he understands the comparisons that are being made between the Hanley Ramirez/Pablo Sandoval signings and the Carl Crawford signing/Adrian Gonzalez extension, but the team certainly never intended to duplicate the aggressive philosophy they showed in 2011. Asked if the Red Sox need to question their evaluation skills in light of those signings as well as the Rick Porcello extension and John Lackey trade, Lucchino replied, “We’re not immune to second-guessing ourselves, but I do think a little more water needs to run underneath the bridge before you can effectively evaluate some of these most recent transactions.”
- Shaughnessy pressed a bit on the Lackey trade in particular, noting that both of the players received in that deal — Joe Kelly and Allen Craig — are now in the minor leagues. Lucchino admitted that the trade looks dismal: “It certainly looks like that deal didn’t result in the kind of gains we thought we’d have in the major leagues. But both of those guys still play for the [Pawtucket] Red Sox and no one has given up on the pitching contributions that Joe Kelly can make in the future.” This is likely reading too much into the comment, but I find it interesting that he didn’t voice a similar vote of confidence in Craig.
- Lucchino voiced the same confidence in GM Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell that Red Sox owner John Henry has previously expressed. He also repeatedly said he’s yet to wave the white flag on the 2015 season, and the team will reassess more at the tail end of July.
- In an interview with WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, Red Sox vice president of player personnel took exception to the narrative that Rusney Castillo was signed based on workouts as opposed to in-game experience. Baird explains that the Red Sox saw Castillo in international play as well as on video from Cuba. Additionally, while owner John Henry has noted in the past that missing out on Jose Abreu may have played a role in Boston’s aggressive pursuit of Castillo, Baird says that the Red Sox did their homework on Castillo. While Castillo certainly hasn’t performed at the level of Abreu, or even fellow countryman Yasmany Tomas, I’d add that it’s still early in his contract, and he’s been slowed by injuries as well.
- The Red Sox were originally optimistic about Hanley Ramirez’s hand after X-rays came back negative, but as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald wrote yesterday, Ramirez is traveling back to Boston to receive an MRI due to persistent discomfort. Ramirez was hit by a line-drive while running the bases last Wednesday, and manager John Farrell told him that the pain worsened over the weekend. A trip to the disabled list is possible, writes Mastrodonato.
Despite what has been a wildly disappointing season to this point, the Red Sox aren’t likely to completely blow up their roster again, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports in his latest 10 Degrees column. For all of Boston’s 2015 woes, the team will still have Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts up the middle in 2015, and the departure of Mike Napoli via free agency could allow Hanley Ramirez to move over to first base with Rusney Castillo getting an everyday outfield role. Blake Swihart, too, has shown promise this month and gives the team another building block. Passan hears that the team has no designs on trying to dump either Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval to another club.
A few more notes from around the AL…
- Nick Castellanos isn’t hitting well in 2015, but manager Brad Ausmus tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the Tigers will remain patient with the young third baseman. The team has a plan on how to handle Castellanos’ struggles, and while Ausmus wouldn’t elaborate, there’s no talk of sending him to Triple-A or reducing his playing time dramatically. The 23-year-old Castellanos is hitting just .217/.267/.328 in 255 plate appearances this year.
- Angels right-hander Jered Weaver hit the DL last night due to hip inflammation, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times, and he’ll undergo an MRI to determine if there is anything more severe at play. Weaver said he’s felt a sharp pain in his hip on and off as of late, and DiGiovanna notes that there’s always some concern with this type of injury that the MRI will reveal a tear and necessitate surgery. The Halos did position themselves to be able to replace an injury to one of their starters this winter by acquiring Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano.
- Cody Anderson is the Indians‘ latest attempt to fix what has been a revolving door in the fifth spot of their rotation, writes Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com. The 24-year-old rookie made his big league debut Sunday and pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays, limiting Tampa to six hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Manager Terry Francona was impressed not only by the results and Anderson’s poise on the mound, but his ability to hold runners and field his position. “I’m sure there’s a lot of guys in player development today that are really proud,” said Francona. “And, they should be, because he did a hell of a job.” For the time being, it seems that Anderson will have the opportunity to lock down that rotation spot, and I’d imagine his ability (or inability) to do so could impact Cleveland’s plans come July.
Saturday afternoon, Nationals starter Max Scherzer no-hit the Pirates, losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth when Jose Tabata leaned down to allow himself to get hit in the elbow — in a 6-0 game. The ending aside, it was a dominant performance by Scherzer, who is, improbably, having the best season of his career in the first year of his contract in Washington. 14 starts in, Scherzer has cut his walk rate in half compared to last season, during which he was already clearly an elite pitcher. After today’s ten-strikeout performance, he’s also whiffed 123 batters in 102 1/3 innings. Tabata’s HBP dashed Scherzer’s chances of a perfect game today, but if he keeps pitching this brilliantly, there might be more shots in his future. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- In 2012, the Red Sox made a franchise-changing trade, dealing Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers and freeing up salary in the process. That deal ended up helping them win the 2013 World Series. Now, the 2015 Red Sox look a little bit like the 2012 version, and Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, following up on a column by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, wonders whether they ought to consider dumping players yet again to give themselves more flexibility. Britton suggests, though, that it would be difficult to find a trade partner as perfect for their current situation as the Dodgers (who willingly took on heaps of money to get a good player in Gonzalez) were in 2012. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, meanwhile, is withholding judgment on the new contracts of players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. “We’ve had plenty of examples of guys who five or 10 percent of the way through their contracts, there was an adjustment period and they didn’t take off quite yet and then in time they do,” said Cherington earlier this week. “I’m not going to make any judgments on any specific decision or player based on that short amount of time.” Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Despite his unusual background, former GM Dan Jennings is settling in as the Marlins‘ new manager, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. When Jeffrey Loria broached the subject of Jennings taking the managerial job, Jennings had the same reaction as much of the rest of the industry: “Have you lost your mind?” After beginning Jennings’ tenure with five straight losses, the Marlins are 13-12. “It’s starting to normalize. The boys are playing well, and I’m proud of the way we’ve responded,” says Jennings. “I’m having a blast.”
- Acquiring high-upside talent in the draft can be difficult, so the Braves have tried to acquire talented, if tarnished, pitchers in trades, Ray Glier writes for Baseball America. Those include Manny Banuelos, Chris Withrow, Arodys Vizcaino, Max Fried and Tyrell Jenkins, all of whom have had significant injuries. The Braves’ top 2015 draft pick, Kolby Allard, likewise fell to them because of an injury. “Before you know it, the end of 2015 will be here and it will be 2016, and we will have a lot of fresh, healthy pitchers,” says GM John Hart. As Glier notes, sometimes injury recoveries don’t go smoothly. But Hart insists the Braves are being careful. “For every guy we have acquired I can honestly say we have another 10 to 12 we didn’t bite down on because we didn’t get good enough medical information that allowed us to pull the trigger,” Hart says.
David Ortiz has ten-and-five rights and says there’s “no chance” he’d approve a deal to another club, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There hasn’t been any credible suggestion that Boston would look to move one of team’s best-known players, of course, but it sounds as if that has no chance of becoming a realistic possibility. “This is the team I’ll be with the rest off my career,” said Ortiz.
Here’s more on the Red Sox, who entered play today at ten games under .500:
- Starting pitching prospect Henry Owens has struggled mightily this year at Triple-A, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes. His walks have skyrocketed even as his strikeout numbers have lagged. Of course, the big southpaw is still just 22, and Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper says there’s still plenty of reason to believe that Owens can be a quality big league starter. That may well be true, but Boston probably hoped Owens would be ready to step in this year or next, and he has some work to do to get back on track.
- As the Red Sox front office gets ready to evaluate the summer trade market, the team could well face tough questions about whether contention is reasonably possible this season. As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes, GM Ben Cherington did not directly answer the question whether the club could look to the future in structuring its moves. “Get better and be the best team we can be,” he said when asked whether the club would focus on current upgrades. “Not putting a date on it but just be the best team we can be. That’s what we would be geared toward. We haven’t considered anything other than that at this point.”
- Cherington said that he takes responsibility for the team’s sluggish performance to date, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. One key issue, of course, has been the poor overall work of major signings Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. “Look, we’ve had plenty of examples of guys who, 5 or 10 percent of the way through their contracts, there was an adjustment period and they didn’t take off quite yet and then in time it does,” Cherington said. “I’m not going to make any judgments on any specific decision or player based on that short amount of time. But I will certainly make judgments on myself for the overall performance and the team’s performance. That’s on me. If there’s any single person I’m focused on, it’s more my own decisions in total. If you want to talk about the total performance of the team, it’s got to be about me more than any individual out there.”
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that Boston needs to do whatever it can — which would, surely, include eating quite a bit of money — to move both Ramirez and Sandoval. That seems a bit hasty, in spite of the obvious problems that have arisen, not least of which because the club would be selling quite low on both players. As John Tomase of WEEI.com writes, many of the team’s big contracts would be quite difficult to move without keeping a big piece of the salary obligations and/or including quality young talent to rid itself of those contracts. All said, from my view, the only course of action at this point is to wait and hope for better — though Cherington & Co. have shown plenty of willingness to jump on opportunities to get out from under bad contracts.
- Of course, the focus early on was on the team’s pitching, and while there have been some signs of improvement, all is not quite well on that front either. Justin Masterson has, of course, struggled after signing a one-year deal that he and the team hoped would coincide with a turnaround. Masterson is coming to the end of a rehab stint, and the team has given him the choice whether to accept a move to the bullpen or take another rehab start to allow more time for evaluation, Mastrodonato reports. That might not be a permanent move, skipper John Farrell emphasized. “If it were in the next 10 days and he was in the bullpen we feel like he’s built up enough pitches that if he didn’t start for five, six days, he could be inserted into the rotation if needed,” Farrell said. “Those are all things being discussed and factored.”
- In a longer-term matter, the Red Sox are increasingly considering whether it makes sense to shift good arms into bullpen roles earlier in their careers, Mastrodonato reports. “In the lower levels obviously we’re trying to get guys as many innings as possible and starting is the easiest way to do that, but there’s an exception,” explained Cherington. “And we’ve been a little more proactive recently at the upper levels of trying to identify guys we think might perform better in that role, move them into that role a tick quicker.” The Boston GM did make clear that starting pitching was the priority, but said that the organization wants to be realistic about how it can get assets onto its major league roster. Then, there are broader market considerations. “Part of it is you’re trying to get players ready for the big leagues,” said Cherington, “but part of it is an acknowledgement of the market. Free agency is treating non-closing major league relievers better than ever.”
Here’s the latest from the American League:
- Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez expressed little inclination to return to the infield, as WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. He emphasized that he believes on the grass limits the wear and tear on his body, saying “I consider myself an outfielder.” Some have suggested that Ramirez could spend time at first, now or in the future, as the team looks to spark a lagging offense and find time for a large group of outfielders. But it sounds as if that is rather unlikely at this stage.
- Though he’s back from knee surgery, Athletics utilityman Ben Zobrist has yet to look himself, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. The 34-year-old still appears to be a step slow, per Slusser, and has not yet turned things around at the plate. Oakland is well back in the standings and could conceivably move quickly if it sees a sterling opportunity to sell — as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney discussed today in an Insider piece — but one wonders whether that strategy would work for Zobrist, who may need to show more to maximize his value.
- The Yankees‘ risky call to keep Masahiro Tanaka away from the surgeon’s knife has paid dividends so far, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News. Tanaka has been outstanding since returning from the DL, and is running out a mid-90s heater after exhibiting a velocity dip earlier in the season. It remains to be seen whether he can stave off Tommy John surgery permanently, but it’s hard to argue with the decision to wait when he owns a 2.48 ERA with 9.7 K/9 against just 1.7 BB/9 over his first six starts of the year.
With a 22-29 record on the books, the Red Sox may already have cause to regret several recent decisions, writes Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. Whether or not the team is better set up for the long term, he says, adding Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, and Joe Kelly (as opposed to, say, keeping John Lackey and acquiring Jeff Samardzija) has not paid off in the short run. Likewise, the signings of Hanley Ramirez (who has not adapted well to the outfield) and Pablo Sandoval (who owns a .688 OPS) have not paid the dividends hoped for when the club allocated $183MM between the two veterans.
Here’s more from Boston:
- Dealing with the on-field problems is not just a baseball question, explains Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. It’s imperative for the bottom line that the club do what it can to stay in contention, which is made plausible by the fact that the rest of the divisions has been mired in mediocrity. The risk of another long season out of the race, says Bradford, is an apathetic fan base that could lose patience with the organization.
- Boston’s struggles have put manager John Farrell’s job at risk, says Christopher Gasper of the Boston Globe, even if they aren’t really his fault. The club is nearing a point where some drastic change is needed, says Gasper, and the “even-keeled and cerebral” Farrell may need to engineer a quick turnaround to keep his position. Gasper observes that, while the club’s less-than-powerful offense can hope for better luck given its league-low .269 BABIP, it has also produced a league-worst 21.1% soft contact rate (per Fangraphs).
- As if trouble on offense and in the rotation were not enough, the Globe’s Alex Speier discusses the team’s sub-par overall efforts on defense. Errors have not generally been a big problem on the whole, but advanced metrics view the Sox as one of the league’s worst defensive units. The biggest problem, says Speier, is that Ramirez has been the league’s single worst fielder by a significant margin. Remarkably, Ramirez has cost the club about one quarter of a run per game thus far, and Speier observes that there are no ready solutions (other than continuing to work toward and hope for improvement) given Boston’s current roster alignment.
- In an interview with Toucher & Rich of CBS Boston (audio link), Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe explains that Farrell is not the main issue with the Red Sox. The skipper has done what he can with the roster, says Abraham, who goes on to argue that Ramirez can’t just be shifted to first base — which might create even greater problems. Nevertheless, with the AL East underperforming, Abraham says there is reason to believe the club can stay in the hunt.
As expected, Reds starter Homer Bailey underwent Tommy John surgery today, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Though his previously-repaired flexor mass tendon apepared in good shape, Bailey’s UCL was determined to be completely torn, leaving little in the way of options to avoid surgery.
- Likewise, Rays righty Alex Cobb was found to have a fully torn UCL, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports, meaning he too was virtually assured to require a TJ procedure. Cobb says the best-case scenario would have him return late in 2016. Fellow Tampa hurler Matt Moore has continued to build his way back from his own UCL replacement, with MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reporting that Moore was able to throw all of his pitches in a live BP session. Moore says he is targeting a mid-June return to the big league bump.
- Though his shoulder has shown some evidence of progress, Rangers lefty Derek Holland will wait an additional two weeks before he begins throwing, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Though Texas has enjoyed a somewhat surprising contribution from its starting staff (3.71 ERA, 9th in baseball), peripherals suggest that some regression is forthcoming. Regardless, Holland’s health is critical to the club, both this year and — perhaps even more so — in the future.
- Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is set to catch seven innings tomorrow as he continues to work fully back from Tommy John surgery, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Wieters’ ability to return to health and productivity will go a long way toward determining his free agent earning power next winter, of course. It will also tell on Baltimore’s ability to compete for a postseason slot, though replacement Caleb Joseph has been a revelation.
- The Mariners appear unlikely to see righty Hisashi Iwakuma return until early June, at the soonest, per Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Manager Lloyd McClendon says that Iwakuma is “probably still two to three weeks from going out [on a rehab assignment]” and will then need to throw a few outings before making it back to the big leagues. As with Wieters, Iwakuma needs to get healthy and show that he can continue to be effective in order to bolster his open market case. The scuffling Mariners, meanwhile, are not only firmly in need of his services, but also must assess whether they will be in the market for rotation help over the summer.
- Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez is not likely to need a DL stint for his left shoulder sprain, manager John Farrell tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Boston seems to have dodged a bullet with the injury situation, as the club can ill afford an extended absence from the player who has paced the club in hitting thus far.
The Yankees are set to bring up second base prospect Jose Pirela, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen how the playing time will be sorted in the middle infield, but the club has received scant production to date at both second base (Stephen Drew and Gregorio Petit) and shortstop (Didi Gregorius). With the Yankees otherwise looking good atop the AL East, it is fair to wonder whether Pirela and/or Rob Refsnyder will get extended early looks to help inform the club’s decisionmaking over the summer.
Here’s more from the competitive AL East:
- Meanwhile, things are headed in quite a different direction at the keystone for the Blue Jays, who have received stunning production from offseason acquisition Devon Travis. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca explains, while Travis’s incredible start is obviously not sustainable, he has exhibited a series of skills — hitting the ball long and hard, and showing quality strike zone control — that bode well for his future. While Toronto obviously hoped he could become a long-term answer when it dealt for him, the club now has good reason to believe that he will be installed at second for years to come.
- Another infielder off to a surprisingly hot start is Jimmy Paredes of the Orioles. As Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes, the 26-year-old has traveled a long road through five organizations to get to this point. Still a work in progress in the field, Paredes has shown real promise at the plate this year. With Jonathan Schoop still working back from injury and Manny Machado having missed significant time in each of the last two seasons, Paredes could be an important piece for Baltimore if the team hopes to stay in the playoff hunt.
- Things have gotten bad in a hurry for the Red Sox, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford opines that losing Hanley Ramirez for any significant stretch would be a huge blow for Boston; while his injury does not appear to be as serious as it looked, any loss of production could be problematic in a tough division. Of course, the club has plenty of options in the outfield, and the bigger concern remains a rotation that has struggled badly. Though it is reasonable to hope that the results will begin to better match the underlying peripherals, Bradford says that the team does not have any obviously promising internal candidates to add quality innings in the near term.
9:40pm: The club has received promising initial indications on Ramirez’s shoulder, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports on Twitter. Manager John Farrell called Ramirez “day to day,” saying that it is not yet clear that he’ll need a DL stint.
8:24pm: Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez suffered what the team is calling a sprained left shoulder during tonight’s action. He crashed into the left field wall attempting to make a catch down the line.
It is obviously far too soon to know how severe the injury is, but the somewhat innocuous terminology (“sprain”) could potentially belie its seriousness. Shoulder sprains come in different grades, of course. And Ramirez has already undergone two procedures on his left shoulder.
The 31-year-old has hit a robust .283/.340/.609 over 103 plate appearances this year, providing the middle-of-the-order presence that Boston hoped for. While his poorly-rated work in his first season as an outfielder has held down his value, the club will certainly miss his bat for whatever time he misses.
Of course, the Red Sox are particularly loaded in the outfield, even with Shane Victorino already on the DL. Allen Craig and Daniel Nava are already on the big league roster, while Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. are patrolling the outfield at Triple-A Pawtucket. Then again, the Red Sox promised Ramirez $88MM over four years in hopes that he would help anchor a potent lineup, and every game counts in a tight division.
If the injury keeps Ramirez down for a significant stretch, the biggest impact, in the end, could be on Boston’s flexibility to deal over the summer. Outfield depth seemed among the more likely places from which the club could draw in adding pieces to its rotation, which has struggled to a 5.66 ERA.