Hanley Ramirez Rumors

Free Agent Profile: Hanley Ramirez

The Manny Ramirez era in Los Angeles is long over, but Hanleywood has given the Dodgers plenty of lasting memories in recent years.   Hanley Ramirez is now hitting the free agent market and whether he winds up back with the Dodgers or with someone else, he’s all but certain to get paid big bucks.

Strengths/Pros  

Offensively, Ramirez rates as one of the highest-impact free agents available.  Last season, Ramirez slashed .283/.369/.448 with 13 homers in 128 games for the Dodgers.  His career track record is even stronger with a batting line of .300/.373/.500.  There aren’t many shortstops who offer the kind of pop that Ramirez can, either.  He has yet to hit less than ten homers in a campaign and that low point comes from a partial season of play (2011).  Over the last nine years, Ramirez has averaged 21 homers per season.

Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez has never played in a particularly homer-friendly environment, but he still boasts strong career numbers.  With the Dodgers, Ramirez posted a .299/.368/.506 line in his two-and-a-half seasons, numbers that are eerily similar to his career slash line.  When stacking his 2014 wRC+ against this winter’s other free agents (I modified the free agent leaderboard constructed by Steve Adams to exclude players with options that were exercised, like Ben Zobrist and Denard Span), he rates third among qualified hitters with a 135 rating. That puts him ahead of guys like Melky Cabrera and just a hair behind the big bat of Nelson Cruz.

Ramirez turned in a 3.4 WAR this past season and a particularly strong 5.0 WAR in 2013.  He was a massive offensive weapon for the Dodgers in 2013 with a wOBA of .446.  His closer-to-mortal .362 wOBA in 2014 is still quite strong, also good for No. 3 on the aforementioned free agent leaderboard.  For his career, he has offered better-than-average strikeout and walk rates (16.6% and 9.6%) and his walk rate of 10.9% this past season was actually a step up from his total body of work.  Both UBR and BsR scored him as an above-average baserunner this past season and are fond his career body of work on the bases.

A three-time All-Star, he shines especially bright when compared to the rest of the crop at the shortstop position.  After Ramirez, the next best options are Stephen Drew, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera.  While all three are starter material, Ramirez clearly is of a different caliber and figures to out-earn all of them significantly in terms of average annual value and contract length.

Of course, Ramirez’s future might not be at shortstop.  He also has 98 games of experience at third base to his credit, the bulk of which came in 2012 with the Marlins.  The top of the third base market is healthier than at short, with options like Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley, but Ramirez offers the most offensive potential of the three.  A team could sign Ramirez to play shortstop, for now, and shift him over to third base down the line depending on the needs and opportunities that come up.

Weaknesses/Cons  

Ramirez’s health has been an issue for years now.  He’s phenomenal when he’s on the field, but it’s hard to count on getting a full season out of him given his track record.  We first saw the injury bug strike in 2011 where he played in just 92 games, and in 2013, Ramirez took the field in just 86 games, his lowest output since becoming a full-time player.

Ramirez first started having shoulder trouble in 2010 and it only got worse in 2011 when he injured himself trying to make a diving catch in August of that year, causing him to miss the remainder of the season.  In 2013, he tore a ligament in his thumb and missed a month after undergoing surgery.  When he got back on the field, his hamstring cost him significant time.  This past season, Ramirez was held back by several injuries, including a strained oblique.

While there are tons of great things to say about Ramirez’s bat, his fielding is not at all on the same level.  Ramirez’s -15.6 UZR/150 rating from this past season is atrocious and his -8.8 career mark is pretty ugly as well.  Defensive runs saved tells the same story – he cost the Dodgers nine runs in 2014 and has a -77 tally for his career.

I mentioned the possibility of a shift from shortstop to third base as a positive in the previous section, but here’s the other (and, maybe, more realistic take): a club signing Ramirez to a multi-year pact will likely have to put him at third base at some point to try and cover up his defensive shortcomings.  When you look at his history of poor defense and injuries and consider that he’s on the wrong side of 30 (he’ll be 31 by Opening Day), there’s little reason to believe it’ll get better.

Ramirez will most definitely turn down the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, meaning that any other club signing him will forfeit its top unprotected pick.

Personal  

Ramirez was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and attended Adbentista High School.  Ramirez is married with three children – two sons and a daughter.  In the summer of 2013, his youngest son showed everyone that he has a gorgeous swing, just like his father (Vine link).

Market  

The Dodgers and Ramirez were discussing an extension in the early part of the season, but the two sides agreed to table talks when they could not bridge a sizable gap.  A return is not out of the question, but rival evaluators told ESPN.com’s Buster Olney in September that they were sensing that the Dodgers would offer Ramirez the QO with the expectation that he would decline, sign elsewhere, and net them draft compensation.   Of course, the new regime in L.A. headed by Andrew Friedman might feel differently.

More recently, Ramirez has reportedly told teams that he’s willing to play a position other than shortstop, which should make clubs with third base needs and possibly corner outfield needs more open to adding him.  However, some clubs might have reservations about signing him and simply dropping him into the outfield.  After all, he’s never played a single game there in his pro career.

The Yankees might be the most obvious fit for Ramirez, but reports this week indicated that they weren’t likely to pursue many of the big-name free agents on the market.  Of course, as Steve pointed out in the linked piece, that report mentioned many top free agents by name, but Ramirez’s name was absent.  If the Yankees are willing to pay market price for Ramirez, they can slot him in at shortstop in the short-term and transition him over to third or a corner outfield spot later on in the contract.

The Mariners and Giants could enter the mix as well, with San Francisco looking at him as a third base or left field option.  The Tigers might make sense from a need standpoint, but they have so many large contracts on the books looking forward that adding a significant deal for Ramirez might be tough.  A reunion with the Red Sox might be possible since he is willing to play third, and they’ve reportedly already reached out to him.  The White Sox have money to spend, few significant long-term contracts on the books and lack a clear long-term option at third base.  The A’s are in need of a shortstop and with a lefty-heavy offense, Ramirez’s big right-handed bat would be a welcome addition, though it’s hard to see his salary fitting into the budget.  The Mets also probably won’t spend the money necessary to sign Ramirez, but the need is there.

Expected Contract

Ramirez was reportedly asking for over $130MM in the spring give up a chance at testing the open market, presumably on a five- or six-year pact.  Given the lucrative deals signed by Jacoby Ellsbury ($153MM) and Shin-Soo Choo ($130MM) last winter, an AAV of $20MM or more seems feasible for Ramirez, who offers major offensive production at a premium position.

Even when considering Ramirez’s spotty health record and weak glove, it’s hard to envision a scenario where he doesn’t comes away as the highest paid positional player of the winter.  Last winter, Ellsbury got a $153MM, seven-year pact, despite his own checkered injury history.  I think Ramirez will approach that AAV with one less year, netting a six-year, $132MM deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Hanley Ramirez Open To Position Change

It’s been speculated that Hanley Ramirez‘s desire to play shortstop will temper the demand for his services on the open market due to his sub-par work at the position, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears that Ramirez is now telling clubs he’s willing to play third base or “wherever there’s a need.”

Just yesterday, ESPN’s Buster Olney speculated that opening up to the possibility of playing elsewhere on the diamond would likely enhance interest in Ramirez. If he’s open to playing third base or even left field, Ramirez’s suitors could indeed grow, although Ramirez has never played a professional game in the outfield in the minors or Majors, so clubs may be hesitant to drop him into that role with no prior experience.

Still, even a willingness to play third base off the bat will be food for Ramirez and could open his market to include the Giants and Red Sox, while a team like the Mariners could show more interest if they’re willing to bet on the fact that he can play a competent corner outfield. Heyman reports that the Red Sox have indeed been in contact with Ramirez, even if they’re currently more focused on Pablo Sandoval.

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Ramirez third among free agents, noting that he could still potentially play an above-average third base if he was willing to make the switch.


Olney On A-Rod, Hanley, Mets, Peavy

In his latest ESPN Insider-only blog (subscription required), Buster Olney looks at the latest chapter in the Alex Rodriguez saga — a report from the Miami Herald indicating that Rodriguez admitted his PED use to the DEA in January — and opines that the Yankees need to do everything in their power to be free of him. Olney wonders if the Yankees could release or suspend him and invoke the player conduct clause in their standard contract in an effort to legally absolve themselves of the remaining $61MM commitment in light of his confession. Industry perception, Olney writes, is that the conduct clause is superseded by the language in the CBA, but no one has ever really made a challenge using the player conduct clause. And, he writes, the worst-case scenario would be paying him the remainder of his salary while getting nothing in return — an outcome which could happen even with Rodriguez in uniform. Of course, it’s not a given that Rodriguez doesn’t have some productivity left in his bat, but it’s hard to fault Olney for doubting the possible contributions of a 39-year-old who has appeared in just 265 games since Opening Day 2011.

More from Olney’s piece…

  • Hanley Ramirez‘s strong desire to play shortstop — or the infield in general — will be a detriment to his free agent stock, Olney writes. He suggests that Ramirez announce to teams right now that he is willing to play a corner outfield position, shortstop or third base next season in order to create the strongest market possible for his services. Olney rightly points out that the idea of Ramirez in a corner outfield spot would broaden his appeal to numerous clubs and help to create a bidding war for his services. It doesn’t seem that Ramirez is changing his plans anytime soon, however. As Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times pointed out today (Twitter link), Ramirez has changed his Twitter bio to read “MLB Shortstop.”
  • Olney has gotten indications that the Mets will be aggressive with at least one free agent signing and one trade this offseason, and he lists the familiar matchup of the Cubs as an ideal trade partner. Starlin Castro‘s name arises as a speculative target for Olney, though he adds that the price tag could be prohibitive: Jacob deGrom or Zack Wheeler.
  • The Giants are interested in working out a new deal with right-hander Jake Peavy following his excellent work for the Giants after their July acquisition. Peavy struggled in the playoffs, but his regular-season work in San Francisco was excellent: a 2.17 ERA (3.03 FIP/3.91 SIERA) with 6.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 78 2/3 innings (12 starts).


Twelve Free Agents Receive Qualifying Offers

Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:

Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.

There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.

The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.

The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).

While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.

The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.

Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).


Dodgers Make Qualifying Offer To Hanley Ramirez

The Dodgers announced that they have made a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to Hanley Ramirez.

The move was widely expected, as Ramirez will hit the open market as arguably the top position player in this year’s free agent class. The 30-year-old Ramirez batted .283/.369/.448 with 13 homers in 128 games this season, and while he’s been injury prone over the past few years, he comes with the upside of being one of the game’s best offensive players, as he was in 2013 upon activation from the disabled list. Ramirez slashed an otherworldly .345/.402/.638 with 20 homers in 86 games that year and is a lifetime .300/.373/.500 hitter.

Ramirez will have a week to accept or decline the offer, though that’s little more than a formality as he will clearly decline in favor of a multi-year free agent deal. If he signs elsewhere after rejecting the offer, the Dodgers would receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of next year’s first round.

His status, along with that of others who have been recipients of the qualifying offer, can be monitored in MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker.


Qualifying Offer Rumors: Santana, Kuroda, Hanley

Teams have until 4pm CT today to issue one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers to impending free agents.  If the offer is turned down, a team would receive a compensatory first round pick in the 2015 draft if their free agent signed elsewhere.  MLBTR will report on all of the qualifying offers when they’re officially issued and you can stay quickly updated via MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker.  Here’s the latest QO buzz, with the newest items at the top of the post…

  • The Braves have told Ervin Santana that he will receive a qualifying offer, a source tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.  The move was expected given Santana’s good 2014 season, and it will be interesting to see how Santana fares in free agency this offseason given how the QO playing a role in limiting his market last winter.   MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicts Santana will find a four-year, $56MM deal this time around.
  • The Yankees “don’t seem especially likely” to make Hiroki Kuroda a qualifying offer, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes, though the club hasn’t yet made a final decision about what to do with the 39-year-old righty.  Heyman doesn’t think a rival team would give up a draft pick to sign Kuroda to a one-year deal worth more than $15.3MM, so if the Yankees did issue the QO, it could limit Kuroda’s market.  Kuroda could also retire or return to Japan, making the qualifying offer scenario moot.
  • Also from Heyman, there is no doubt the Dodgers will make Hanley Ramirez a qualifying offer even if Andrew Friedman and Ramirez’s agent both aren’t commenting on the matter.

Dodgers Notes: Pitching, Hanley, Colletti

Here’s the latest from Vin Scully’s team…

  • The Dodgers aren’t likely to sign any starting pitcher that would cost them a draft pick, a source tells ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon.  This would rule out the likes of Max Scherzer, James Shields or any other free agent arm who will have qualifying offer draft compensation attached to their services.  As Saxon notes, the Dodgers’ primary offseason goal is to inject more youth into their roster, as “they’re terrified of becoming” a team loaded with declining veterans, a la the Phillies or Yankees.
  • Speaking of qualifying offers, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times looks at whether or not the Dodgers would extend a QO to Hanley Ramirez.  The qualifying offer (not to mention his injury history and subpar shortstop defense) could hurt Ramirez’s market, which creates the possibility that he could accept the one-year, $15.3MM offer and stay with a Dodger team that may prefer to move on from Ramirez.  “It seems like a no-brainer,” Dilbeck writes, that L.A. would give Ramirez a QO and I agree — despite Ramirez’s issues, he’ll surely find a multiyear deal on the free agent market and thus there is very little threat of him accepting the qualifying offer.  Even if he did accept, that would hardly be a major problem for the Dodgers since (as Dilbeck notes), Ramirez could then serve as a one-year bridge until prospect Corey Seager is ready at short.
  • Also from Dilbeck, he doesn’t think GM Ned Colletti deserves to be fired for the club’s failure to advance beyond the NLDS.  The Dodgers have been generally successful during Colletti’s tenure and blaming him for the many large and problematic contracts on the payroll isn’t fair since upper management signed off on those deals, Dilbeck writes.
  • While the Dodgers would like to keep A.J. Ellis , the team could non-tender the catcher and then re-sign him at a lower price tag, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick opines.  Ellis made $3.55MM in 2014 and he still has two years of arbitration eligibility left as a Super Two player.  Ellis’ arbitration raise will be a modest one, as he hit only .191/.323/.254 in 347 PA last season, though Ellis’ hitting isn’t as valuable to the club as his defense and relationship with the pitching staff.  According to Gurnick, it seems likely that the Dodgers will acquire another catcher this offseason to compete with Ellis for the starting job.

Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.

NL West Links: D’Backs, Lincecum, Hanley

With Tony La Russa in place and looking for a new GM for the Diamondbacks, the organization still faces fundamental questions about how it will incorporate statistical analysis into its decisionmaking, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. La Russa’s recent comments indicate that he is more interested in adding lower-level front office pieces with analytical backgrounds, notes Piecoro, which is a strategy that runs the risk of being ineffectual.

A bit more from the NL West…

  • Grant Brisbee of SB Nation’s McCovey Chronicles opines that at this point, former ace Tim Lincecum couldn’t even be trusted with a postseason roster spot for the Giants. He certainly won’t get a rotation spot, notes Brisbee, and the spot starter/long relief role will likely go to Yusmeiro Petit, with Ryan Vogelsong rounding out the rotation. Even in a middle relief role, Hunter Strickland‘s overpowering fastball (which has averaged 98 mph this month) could be more valuable than what Lincecum could bring.
  • Hanley Ramirez does not seem to be handling the final stretch leading up to his free agency very smoothly, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Ramirez refused to talk to reporters following a two-error game Tuesday, and even on Monday, he turned away reporters from the Dodgers‘ own regional sports network. Manager Don Mattingly implied that he thinks Ramirez might be burned out from answering the types of questions associated with his current situation, as he’s never been this close to free agency before and hasn’t dealt with the situation in the past.

NL West Notes: Hanley, Kemp, Ross, Rosario

It was on this day in 1890 that the Dodgers (then playing in Brooklyn and using the rather non-intimidating “Bridegrooms” nickname) swept a triple-header over the Pirates.  This was one of the season’s many highlights for the Dod..er, Bridegrooms as they went on to win the franchise’s first National League pennant.

Here’s some news from around the NL West…

  • If Hanley Ramirez leaves the Dodgers in free agency, it could be for an American League team that could give him the occasional rest day at DH, Peter Gammons writes.  Ramirez could also go to a team in need of third base help if he’s willing to switch positions.  As recently reported, the Dodgers are wary of giving Ramirez a long-term contract due to concerns about his durability and defense.
  • Ramirez’s departure would also make it very unlikely that the Dodgers would trade Matt Kemp, Gammons adds.  Without Ramirez, the Dodgers will need Kemp to help balance a lineup that would have only one other notable right-handed bat in Yasiel Puig.
  • Cody Ross knows he’ll be fighting for playing time with the Diamondbacks next season, but the veteran outfielder tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he plans to be fully recovered from the career-threatening hip fracture he suffered in August 2013.
  • The Rockies could use an upgrade at catcher next season, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post opines.  Wilin Rosario has struggled with injuries and performance this season, plus his defense is still a work in progress; Saunders thinks that Rosario’s focus on his glovework may have also been a reason for his dropoff at the plate.  Rosario will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason.