Red Sox players and personnel are keeping close tabs on Hanley Ramirez this winter, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Last year, the former shortstop failed spectacularly in his first season as an outfielder. At times, observers questioned Ramirez’s commitment to improving defensively. The club now plans to use him as the starting first baseman where he’ll be involved much more often than last year. It’s viewed as an easy defensive position but that can be misleading. While it’s true first base demands less raw athleticism than other skill positions like shortstop, it’s a highly technical position and requires precise footwork. Boston hopes to rebound from a cellar dwelling season, and their hopes depend on Ramirez.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Boston outfielder Rusney Castillo believes he has made critical adjustments in preparation for 2016, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Castillo felt fatigued last season and has adopted a more rigorous training program this winter. He’s also tinkered with his swing to make it a bit shorter to the ball. Theoretically, that will help his contact rate.
- Steve Pearce’s signing with the Rays didn’t drive headlines like Yoenis Cespedes, but he’ll fill an important role in 2016, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Pearce will split time between first base and designated hitter. He won’t be a pure platoon bat despite a history of better numbers versus lefties.
- Lack of movement in Ian Desmond’s market has increased the possibility of a “pillow” contract with the Rays, suggests Topkin. Desmond is a Sarasota native which could be a lure. He’d represent a meaningful and highly visible upgrade to the Rays current roster. Brad Miller projects as the starting shortstop, but he could move to an outfield or utility role.
- Also per Topkin, in trade talks with the Cubs and Rockies, the Rays are focused more on Javier Baez and Corey Dickerson than Jorge Soler or Charlie Blackmon. Tampa Bay is shopping Jake McGee and starting pitching. Based on past rumors, Chicago and Colorado could be interested in either or both assets.
- Doug Fister could be a smart target for the Orioles, opines Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. Dan Duquette has already said the club prefers to hang onto its first round draft pick. It would have to surrender that pick and perhaps $50MM to sign free agent Yovani Gallardo. Fister, meanwhile, has had a slightly superior career, would cost about $22MM total over two years, and didn’t receive a qualifying offer. Of course, there’s a reason why Fister is so much cheaper – he dealt with injury during a rough 2015 campaign. If the O’s stay in house, Melewski sees Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, Vance Worley, and Chris Jones as rotation candidates.