Hanley Ramirez's Path to Large Free-Agency Payday Is Switch to Third Base

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Hanley Ramirez's Path to Large Free-Agency Payday Is Switch to Third Base
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If Hanley Ramirez knew what was good for him, he wouldn't be playing shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That's not to say Ramirez shouldn't be wearing Dodger blue. He should, however, consider wearing it at a different position.

Namely, third base.

That's not a new idea. Before Ramirez came off the disabled list August 24, he made headlines by taking grounders at the hot corner. Was a positional switch in the works?

Turns out, no.

“I think he thinks, moving forward in his career, that he’s a third baseman,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told JP Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Daily News.

But, Mattingly insisted, there's been "no real talk" about making the change this year.

"He likes making everybody raise their eyes and making me answer questions,” the L.A. skipper added.

Since being traded to the Dodgers in 2012, Ramirez has played just eight games at third base, and none in the last two seasons.

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In fact, he explicitly told the Dodgers upon arriving that he didn't want to move around the diamond in-season, Hoornstra notes.

In his days with the then-Florida Marlins, Ramirez was adamant that he was a shortstop. "Hanley doesn't want to play third base and the Marlins were informed of that," an unnamed source told Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com in 2011.

Still, the 30-year-old has started nearly 100 games at third in his MLB career.

So far his current club has honored his desire to remain one half of the keystone combo. Entering play Friday, all three of Ramirez's starts since coming off the DL have been at shortstop.

Yet, why not make the switch now—or at least seriously entertain the notionfor the good of the Dodgers and Ramirez's own future?

For Los Angeles, the primary consideration is defense. As Hoornstra points out:

Miguel Rojas, who’s been playing the majority of innings in Ramirez’s stead, ranks first among major-league shortstops in UZR per 150 games. Ramirez ranks 37th, above only two other shortstops.

UZR, or Ultimate Zone Rating, isn't the final word on defensive ability. But most every defensive metric puts Ramirez at or near the bottom of the league, per FanGraphs.

That should at least give the Dodgers pause.

Los Angeles, after all, is pushing toward the postseason. Their primary concern should be to put the best possible team on the field. Period.

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Justin Turner, who's been getting the bulk of the action at third base with Juan Uribe on the disabled list, is hitting .321 in 284 at bats. So it's not as if the position is caught in a black hole.

But Ramirez is a known commodity. His .270/.359/.443 slash line and 12 home runs aren't the production L.A. was hoping for, but the Dodgers want his bat in the lineup.

Yet he's fielding less and less like a quality big league shortstop. Which brings us to Ramirez's best interests.

While it behooves the Dodgers to slide Hanley over, it behooves Hanley just as much.

Should the Dodgers move Hanley Ramirez to third base this year?

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An impending free agent, Ramirez would automatically hit the market as one of the more attractive third-base options, possibly eclipsed only by Pablo Sandoval (assuming the San Francisco Giants don't make a last-minute move to lock up the Kung Fu Panda).

Ramirez could go a long way toward solidifying his value if he gave prospective suitors (including the Dodgers) an extended audition in the heat of the pennant race.

It's a risk, certainly. If he shows rust at a position he hasn't played in nearly two years, or if the move disrupts his performance at the plate, his value could take a hit.

It's a risk worth taking, though. Both for Ramirez's future and the Dodgers' present.

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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