37-year-old Hanley Ramirez has reported to los Tigres de Licey in the Dominican Winter League, as announced by the team on Twitter. This will be his first competitive action since playing for the same club in the winter of 2019-20.
Ramirez, who turns 38 in December, has played for los Tigres sporadically over his career, suiting up for them in the winters of 2006-07, 2012-13, 2016-17, 2018-19 and 2019-20. The fact that he is back for another season doesn’t necessarily mean he is attempting to return to MLB, although Jon Heyman of MLB Network did use the word “comeback” on Twitter. However, the timing is interesting, given that it is widely expected that this winter’s collective bargaining will result in all 30 teams being able to implement a designated hitter next season. Since he has been primarily a designated hitter or first baseman since 2016, that would increase the odds of Ramirez finding some playing time, if he’s healthy enough to contribute with his bat.
That’s a big if, though, given that shoulder injuries derailed his last attempt at playing in the big leagues. Ramirez was released by the Red Sox June 1st, 2018, the last guaranteed season of the four-year, $88MM contract that he signed prior to the 2015 campaign. He didn’t latch on with another club for the rest of that year and later revealed that he turned down offers in order to try to get back to full health. He then signed a minor league deal with Cleveland in February of 2019 and was later selected to their opening day roster. Through 16 games, he was hitting .184/.298/.327, when he was designated for assignment by the club. In July of that year, he underwent shoulder surgery with the hopes of coming back for the 2020 season. It was a few months later, in November of 2019, that Hanley joined los Tigres, getting into 13 games and hitting .273/.298/.418.
Ramirez had an incredible run in the big leagues from 2006 to 2014, playing 1,221 games and hitting .300/.373/.500 in that time, producing a wRC+ of 133 and 40.6 fWAR. After that, his production fell off dramatically, although he was an above-average hitter as recently as 2016, hitting .286/.361/.505 with the Red Sox that year. If he’s managed to put his shoulder issues behind him and show any glimpses of his past performance, some team could be intrigued enough to give him a minor league deal and invite him to spring training to see if he can hit enough to fill a bench bat/designated hitter role.