Once upon a time, Hanley Ramirez was the future superstar shortstop of the Boston Red Sox. He had it all as a prospect: range at fielding, fast on his feet and a pop at the bat. Twice named by Baseball America as Boston's top prospect, it was only a matter of time until Ramirez got his chance in Fenway.
And then came Edgar Renteria. Signed in December of 2004 to a four year, $40 million contract, Renteria was locked in it seemed until at least 2009—and Hanley Ramirez was out of a position.
After the 2004 World Series Championship season, the Sox had parted ways with pitchers Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. So, with shortstop locked up, Hanley Ramirez was used in a blockbuster trade along with pitchers Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia and Anibal Sanchez to the Florida (now Miami) Marlins to acquire pitcher Josh Beckett, third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Guillermo Mota.
With current shortstop Marco Scutaro signed to a one year extension, Ramirez could slide into short and Scutaro becomes the utility infielder off the bench. At 36, he has been considered a placeholder for the other famous Boston Red Sox shortstop prospect, Jose Iglesias, but with Iglesias' continuing difficulties at the plate he might need more time in the minors, be used as trade bait or converted to another position.
Before the 2005 trade, Hanley Ramirez had spent his entire career in the Boston Red Sox farm system. Being one of the most highly scrutinized teams in the MLB, many players have a difficult transition period when they had previously played for a smaller market (see Crawford, Carl). But having grown up in the system, Ramirez has knowledge of what he would be in for, something that could play to his advantage.
The 2011 season was an uncharacteristically off year for Hanley Ramirez, statistically. A career .306 batter with .506 slugging and .886 OPS, his line was dramatically lower during the injury plagued season.
This poses an opportunity for the Red Sox, as a sharp decrease in production could mean a lower than normal market value for the Miami Marlins shortstop. Something Boston could take advantage of without having to give up too much in return.
As the 2011 season progressed for the Boston Red Sox, former manager Terry Francona played a lot of lineup roulette, moving players up and down the batting order in attempts to find something that would click.
Hanley Ramirez provides a natural number two batter for the Red Sox lineup. Sliding in between lead-off man Jacoby Ellsbury and protected by Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis, Ramirez adds another dimension of power with a bit of speed thrown in.
It's no secret that the last two seasons have resulted in some publicized clubhouse issues for Hanley Ramirez, arguments with teammates and managers, bristling at new policies and the like. So, might a change of scenery be a good option for him?
But the Boston Red Sox? The team of beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse?
With former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine hiring, Red Sox management has sent a message to the team that former transgressions will no longer be allowed. A disciplined approach could be exactly what Ramirez needs to get back on track.
Clearly, the Miami Marlins are spending ridiculous amounts of money this off season not to build on a team for the future, but to win now, in 2012. With the additions of shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Heath Bell and starting pitcher Mark Buehrle to the lineup, it is obvious they are aiming very high this season.
In a Boston Red Sox line up that features Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Carl Crawford and the Ryan Kalish/Josh Reddick twosome all batting on the left side of the plate, an extra right handed hitter is something that would be a welcome addition to the roster.
If not hitting in a natural number two spot, he could be placed in the five hole between Gonzalez and Ortiz, to break up two lefties in a row—or in the sixth spot for the same effect between Ortiz and Carl Crawford.
When it comes to stolen bases, the Boston Red Sox is in the middle of the pack in the MLB, raking in 102 steals in 2011. However, only three players—Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford—were able to steal in the double digits, and after that, a precipitous drop off.
According to the 2012 Bill James projections for the upcoming season, Hanley Ramirez is estimated to provide solid batting numbers. Add in 20 home runs and 25 stolen bases and he is someone who could provide just the right combination of consistent pop and speed to the Boston Red Sox.