Hanley Ramirez Rumors

Blue Jays Preparing Offer For Pablo Sandoval

There’s already been some Pablo Sandoval chatter today, with the Red Sox reportedly making an offer and agent Gustavo Vasquez set to chat with the Giants via phone tonight. Vasquez and Sandoval are wrapping up a visit to Boston today, and there’s plenty more on the Kung Fu Panda…

  • The Blue Jays met with Sandoval’s camp at last week’s GM Meetings, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. While the meeting is said to have gone well, no offer has been made at this point.
  • However, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (via Twitter) that while there’s been no offer to this point, within the next 24 hours, the Blue Jays are indeed expected to make a formal offer to Sandoval. That report adds a third seemingly serious club to the mix. Of course, it’s worth remembering that the Jays do have a team policy against contracts of more than five years, and Sandoval is said to be seeking a six-year deal north of $100MM.

Earlier Updates

  • Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com heard from a source that emphatically denied a rumor out of San Francisco that said the Giants were “out” on Sandoval at this point. The Giants are still “very much” in play for Sandoval, McAdam reports, though he does note that it’s unclear how lengthy of a contract the team is willing to issue.
  • Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle shoots down another portion of the apparently erroneous report to which McAdam referred, noting that Sandoval never asked for a seven-year deal from the Giants, who are still definitely in the mix (Twitter link).
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that even if the Giants don’t end up securing Sandoval, they’ll be able to walk away from the situation knowing they made a very strong, very legitimate effort.
  • WEEI.com’s Alex Speier examines why it is the Red Sox prefer Sandoval to Hanley Ramirez, despite the fact that Sandoval is seeking a $100MM+ contract and comes with a significantly lesser offensive track record. Speier lists age, defense, durability and also makeup, which he notes is a concern for the Sox regarding Hanley. While Sandoval’s age and defense are larger factors, his excellent clubhouse reputation is an asset as well.
  • The Red Sox and Giants remain the main players, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but the Padres, White Sox and Blue Jays are all still in the mix. Heyman notes that while the Marlins have been a speculative fit in recent months, there’s been no contact from Miami at this point.

Rosenthal’s Latest: M’s, Hamels, Kennedy, Markakis, Norris

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new notes column posted looking at a number of situations around the league. Here are some quick highlights…

  • The Mariners are on the hunt for a right-handed bat, but they prefer Nelson Cruz to signing Hanley Ramirez or trading for Matt Kemp. Justin Upton is also somewhere on their wish list and is potentially available. Rosenthal writes that the Mariners “are going to do something” of significance to address that search.
  • The Phillies are doing background work on the makeup of Red Sox prospects Christian Vazquez, Mookie Betts and Matt Barnes, Rosenthal hears, fueling some speculation about a Cole Hamels trade. Rosenthal says the Sox are disinclined to move Vazquez or Blake Swihart, however, and previous reports have indicated that the team is loath to consider parting with Betts. As others have noted, Rosenthal feels that Hamels would likely require the Red Sox to exercise his 2019 option ($20MM) in advance, bringing the total he is owed to $110MM over the next five years.
  • The Padres are continuing to listen to offers for Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, with Kennedy being the most likely of the three to go. Kennedy is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $10.3MM in 2015, and the Royals are interested in the right-hander. Rosenthal also speculatively lists the Rangers as a club to watch in the Kennedy market.
  • A reunion between Nick Markakis and the Orioles seemed like a foregone conclusion at one point, but the two sides still aren’t close to a deal and talks are said to be merely “inching along.” Rosenthal wonders what’s taking so long but does note that the O’s are considering Yasmany Tomas and still working with Cruz as well, so it seems fair to speculate that having three options in the corner outfield is slowing the Markakis progress. As Rosenthal notes, the longer the wait, the more likely it is that Markakis explores other options more seriously.
  • Since the publication of that column, Rosenthal has tweeted that the Orioles might be willing to move Bud Norris, who is projected by Swartz to earn $8.7MM in 2015. Norris is a free agent next season but pitched well in 2014, posting a 3.65 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent ground-ball rate in 165 1/3 innings. Rosenthal also hears that the O’s have gotten “moderate” interest in Ubaldo Jimenez, although with $38.75MM remaining on his contract, I’d imagine he could only be swapped for another bad contract.

Latest On Nick Markakis, Blue Jays

Sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links) that even though the Blue Jays have had contact with the agent for Nick Markakis, they aren’t seriously pursuing him right now.  Currently, Toronto is prioritizing other outfielders ahead of Markakis.

Meanwhile, Morosi says that the Orioles are still trying to re-sign Markakis, but the two sides are not close on a deal.  Last week, it was reported that there was renewed optimism between the O’s and Markakis’ camp about hammering out a new contract.  That might still be the case, but it doesn’t sound like anything is imminent on that front.  The two sides are said to be discussing a deal that would pay between $10-$12MM per year.

The Blue Jays are also in a similar spot with Hanley Ramirez, Morosi tweets.  Toronto has established contact with the free agent shortstop, but they’re not actively pursuing him at this time.  With Jose Reyes at shortstop, Ramirez, presumably, would be slotted in at third base with Brett Lawrie at second.  Then again, it’s unclear how serious GM Alex Anthopoulos & Co. are about pursuing Ramirez, who figures to be among the most highly paid free agents of the offseason.



Astros Checked In On Hanley Ramirez

The Astros have checked in on top free agent hitter Hanley Ramirez, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX SportsRosenthal notes that with Carlos Correa, Colin Moran, and Rio Ruiz in the Astros’ pipeline for the left side of their infield, it’s unclear whether the Astros would be willing to meet Ramirez’s demands for a large contract.

In Zach Links’ profile of Ramirez for MLBTR four days ago, he projected a six-year, $132MM deal.  In recent predictions, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and an anonymous GM predicted five-year deals for Ramirez worth $105MM and $90MM, respectively, while an agent went with six years and $122MM.  ESPN’s Jim Bowden takes the low end at just four years and $76MM.  Clearly, there’s a wide range on Ramirez’s next contract.

Ramirez could make sense for the Astros, who project to have less than $40MM committed for 2015 even after paying their arbitration eligible players.  Correa, Moran, and Ruiz have a 2016 estimated time of arrival, but not all prospects pan out on a schedule, and Ramirez recently expressed a willingness to play “wherever there’s a need,” according to Heyman.  The Astros’ first-round draft pick is protected, so they would have to forfeit the competitive balance round pick they acquired from the Marlins in the summer trade that netted them Moran if they were to sign Ramirez.


Red Sox Links: Lester, Masterson, Gregerson

Could Jon Lester end up back with the Red Sox after all?  “A well-connected baseball executive who has had conversations on the subject with the Red Sox” predicted to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes that Lester would indeed re-sign with his old team.  The exec thought the Sox could be willing to relax their policy against signing pitchers in their 30’s to long-term contracts by offering Lester a six-year deal worth at least $20MM per season.  Unless Lester is still willing to give the Sox a bit of a discount, I would think it’ll take a lot more than six years/$120MM to outbid the field for Lester’s services — MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Lester would receive, at minimum, a six-year, $147MM contract this winter.  If the Red Sox were willing to give Lester a six/$120MM deal, I would think they would’ve just offered him that deal in extension talks last winter and avoided this entire situation.

Here’s some more from Fenway Park….


NL West Notes: Sandoval, Dodgers, Hellickson

Could a clause regarding Pablo Sandoval‘s conditioning be written into his next contract?  ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick addressed the question, noting that a Sandoval contract could include bonuses rewarding him for staying at or under a certain weight.  Similar clauses have existed in other players’ contracts in the past, though the CBA doesn’t allow a team to reduce salary (or halt it altogether) if a player is over a set weight limit.

Here’s some more from around the National League West…

  • The Dodgers haven’t been having any internal discussion about bringing back Hanley Ramirez on a new multiyear deal, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports.  President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the team is looking at shortstops in free agency and the trade market, and the Dodgers aren’t necessarily looking at short-term players to fill the position until prospect Corey Seager is ready.  “The limited supply at the position makes it hard to put a lot of rules on it,” Friedman said. “We’re going to try to acquire the best player we can and, if we wind up having depth there, that’s a good problem to have.”  As Saxon notes, Seager could eventually end up as a third baseman.
  • The Diamondbacks probably aren’t the ones “moving closer” to acquiring Jeremy Hellickson if the Rays are indeed approaching a trade with an NL team, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets.
  • Both Carlos Quentin and the Padres seem to “recognize what would be in their mutual interest” in regards to a trade, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes.  A deal to an AL team would allow Quentin to rest his knees in a DH role, while the Padres can get at least a bit of Quentin’s $8MM salary for 2015 off their books.  While Quentin is probably open to waiving his no-trade clause, the greater question will be if a trade partner can be found given Quentin’s injury history.  Padres GM A.J. Preller recently said that the club wasn’t looking to move offensive players until some new bats were acquired, so releasing Quentin isn’t yet an option.

All 12 Players Reject Qualifying Offer

Last Monday, 12 players received one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers. Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera and Michael Cuddyer were all on the receiving end of the offer. The deadline to accept or reject the offer is today at 4pm CT.

A quick primer for those who are unfamiliar: Baseball’s newest collective bargaining agreement did away with the old Type A/B designations for free agent draft pick compensation. The newer system, which is now in its third year, allows teams to make qualifying offers to a player that has spent the entire season with that organization (i.e. players traded midseason are ineligible). That offer is set at the average salary of baseball’s 125 highest-paid players. Should the player reject, a new team will be required to forfeit its top unprotected pick to sign that player (the top 11 picks of this year’s draft are protected). His former team then receives a comp pick at the end of the first round. To this point, none of the 22 players to receive a QO have accepted.

The expectation is that most of the players who received the QO, with the possible exception of Cuddyer, will reject. We’ll keep track of the players that reject the QO here…

  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that no player has accepted this year’s qualifying offer.
  • MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports that Martinez has rejected the qualifying offer (Twitter link).
  • Robertson has turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link).
  • Cuddyer, of course, has essentially rejected his qualifying offer by agreeing to a two-year deal with the Mets.

Earlier Updates

  • Ramirez has rejected the Dodgers‘ QO, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweets. As perhaps the top position player on this year’s open market, the move comes as little surprise. Ramirez figures to seek a contract north of $100MM+ as a free agent.
  • Santana will reject the Braves‘ qualifying offer and search for a multi-year deal on the open market, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move was widely expected after Santana enjoyed a solid season with the Braves. As he showed last winter, even if the market doesn’t materialize for him in the form of a multi-year deal, a one-year offer at or near the value of a QO is still attainable, so there’s little downside in trying to cash in.
  • Both Sandoval and Martin have reportedly rejected their QOs prior to today’s deadline. Sandoval rejected his in the middle of last week, while news of Martin rejecting came last night.

Mariners Strongly Interested In Hanley, V-Mart

The market for some of the top hitters figures to begin taking shape today as the GM Meetings kick off in Phoenix, and the Mariners are already being connected to arguably the top two bats on the market. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted last night that the M’s have interest in Hanley Ramirez, although one source gave him the impression that Seattle’s priority is Victor Martinez. However, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that the Mariners are “aggressively pursuing” Ramirez and have expressed to his camp how badly the team wishes to sign him.

Ramirez could fill the Mariners’ hole at shortstop, and while his defense there is no longer a plus (it is, in fact, considered to be a significant negative), his bat would be an unequivocal upgrade over the combined .239/.295/.344 batting line posted by Seattle shortstops last season. There’s also the possibility that the Mariners could have a mind to put Ramirez in a corner outfield spot after he told teams last week that he’s willing to play anywhere on the diamond, though that seems unlikely, as Ramirez hasn’t played a game in the outfield in the Majors or Minors.

If there Mariners do indeed sign Ramirez, one has to wonder what it means for the future of shortstop Brad Miller. After opening the season as Seattle’s shortstop, Miller, 24, found himself unable to repeat the offensive success he showed in 2013. He struggled to a .221/.288/.365 batting line but played at least passable, if not above average defense at shortstop and is a sound baserunner. It’s possible that he could fill a utility role based on that ability at short, though other teams would likely have interest in acquiring Miller, who just recently turned 25. The Mariners also have Chris Taylor, 24, in their ranks, and Taylor was fairly impressive late in the season. He batted .287/.347/.346 in 151 plate appearances, although that line was bloated by a .398 average on balls in play. Taylor also whiffed in nearly 26 percent of his plate appearances and showed minimal power (eight doubles, no homers) after also showing limited pop throughout his minor league career.

The Mariners were one of the possible destinations listed for Ramirez in Zach Links’ Free Agent Profile of him last week. Zach ultimately predicted a six-year, $132MM contract for Ramirez. While a contract in that range is of course a steep price to pay, it pales in comparison to the 10-year, $240MM contract the M’s doled out to Robinson Cano last offseason. The Mariners also have a rising payroll thanks to a new television deal and their success in 2014, and the only two long-term pacts they have on the books are Cano and Felix Hernandez (though that duo is significant). Rosenthal does note that some sources with whom he’s spoken doubt that the Mariners would want to take on another $100MM+ contract.

Many have speculated that the Mariners will show strong interest in the soon-to-be 36-year-old Martinez, who is said to be seeking a four-year deal. Seattle designated hitters batted just .206/.276/.335 last season, so Martinez would represent a similarly large offensive upgrade for the team. Unlike Ramirez, adding Martinez wouldn’t unseat any young players such as Miller and Taylor, and the price tag, while still steep, could be half as much as that of Ramirez over a span of two fewer years. Of course, there’s also more concern for offensive decline with Martinez, who is entering his age-36 season, while Ramirez is entering his age-31 campaign.

Both Ramirez and Martinez received qualifying offers from their former clubs, but both are considered locks to reject the QO in search of a large multi-year deal. That means the Mariners would have to forfeit the No. 21 overall pick in order to sign either player. Should they sign both — which seems unlikely, though not impossible — the team would forfeit its first- and second-round selections. I listed both Ramirez and Martinez as possible fits for the M’s in their Offseason Outlook last month.


AL Notes: Abreu: White Sox, Red Sox, Rays

Jared S. Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) chronicles the travails Jose Abreu underwent in leaving his native Cuba for America. Full details of Abreu’s journey remain a secret (Abreu and his agents have declined to discuss his defection and an interview with Abreu’s mother, to which to she had agreed, was cancelled by one of the slugger’s associates), but Hopkins was able to piece together how Abreu and his brother-in-law took a boat from Cuba to Haiti in August 2013 leaving behind his young son and family, reaching out to the Orioles’ Henry Urrutia for help after leaving Cuba, and living in the Dominican Republic for three months before landing his $68MM contract with the White Sox. The article also delves into the role smugglers and their networks play in ferreting players out of Cuba for promises upward of 30% of the players’ first contract. Abreu is expected to be named the AL Rookie of the Year tomorrow.

In other news about Abreu’s White Sox and the American League:

  • Earlier today, we learned the White Sox will meet this week with Pablo Sandoval‘s representatives during the GM Meetings in Phoenix. However, if the right third base upgrade cannot be found, the White Sox are comfortable with a platoon of Conor Gillaspie and Marcus Semien, reports CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes. The White Sox also have Matt Davidson on their 40-man roster, but Hayes notes the 23-year-old struggled in a homer-friendly park at Triple-A Charlotte (.199/.283/.362 in 539 plate appearances).
  • The free agent expenditures by the Red Sox this offseason could be shaped by who will be available in free agency next winter, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. With a solid free agent class of starting pitchers and a dearth of third baseman next offseason, MacPherson opines the Red Sox may stretch the budget this year for Sandoval, Chase Headley, or Hanley Ramirez.
  • Rays players are rallying around Dave Martinez to replace Joe Maddon as manager, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin.
  • Within the same article, Topkin speculates the trade of left-hander Cesar Ramos was the first of what could be several moves by the Rays to create roster spots by dealing players who may be too expensive or no longer fit and receive something in return. Sean Rodriguez (projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz to earn $2MM through arbitration) could be one of those moves, according to Topkin.

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.