Hanley Ramirez Poised to Become Most Overpaid Star of New Free-Agent Class

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterOctober 31, 2014

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Hanley Ramirez is about to become a free agent in a few days, which means at some point in the coming weeks, he's likely going to get a whole lot more money than he's actually worth.

Don't misunderstand: In his 10-year career, the former Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins star has been a great player, even an elite one.

Heck, he's only a season removed from a monster 2013 in which, despite playing just 86 games, he hit an astounding .345/.402/.638 with 20 homers and finished eighth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, all in his age-29 campaign.

Imagine the offers he would have received and the contract he would have landed if he were a free agent then.

Alas, Ramirez is a free agent this offseason, coming off a .283/.369/.448 triple-slash line with 13 homers in 128 games. It's a very good offensive season and well above-average for a shortstop, per FanGraphs—but not close to his numbers the year prior.

Ramirez is still going to get paid, however. Maybe not quite as much as he would have following his fantastic 2013 but he's in line for a lot of money, nonetheless. Probably too much.

It's possible that Jacoby Ellsbury's 7-year, $153 million contract could be what Hanley Ramirez is shooting for.
It's possible that Jacoby Ellsbury's 7-year, $153 million contract could be what Hanley Ramirez is shooting for.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

When Ramirez and the Dodgers were discussing a potential contract extension early in the 2014 season, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Ramirez was seeking in excess of $100 million:

While no exact numbers have gotten out, it is thought that he is actually seeking something in excess of $130 million. With Jacoby Ellsbury getting $153 million and Shin-Soo Choo $130 million as free agents, the figure as an asking price for Ramirez wouldn't be a surprise.

That's good news for Ramirez and his bank account, but it's not such good news for the club that (over)pays up to land him.

For one thing, Ramirez will turn 31 years old in December, putting him at the tail end of what are generally considered to be a player's peak seasons (ages 27-32).

For another, it's pretty safe to assume that 2013 was the outlier season for Ramirez, based on his offensive efforts over the past five years:

Hanley Ramirez's Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) Since 2010
SEASONwRC+
2010127
201197
2012106
2013191
2014135
FanGraphs

There's more risk to Ramirez than just his advancing age and decline from 2013 to 2014, too.

If it feels like Ramirez constantly has been nicked up, that's because he has.

This just about tells you everything you need to know: There are 67 different entries listed on the injury portion of his bio page on Baseball Prospectus since coming up for good in 2006. (Yes, we counted them all.)

The man is a magnet for maladies, not to mention thrown baseballs or even ones he hits off himself. Like this, from September:

Or this from August:

Or this from June:

Or this from April:

But it's more than just minor tweaks and day-to-day ailments. Ramirez has had a handful of stints on the disabled list that have cost him chunks of seasons:

Hanley Ramirez's Disabled-List Stints
SEASONINJURYGAMES MISSED
2011Lower back inflammation14
2011Surgery on left shoulder52
2013Surgery on right thumb24
2013Strained left hamstring28
2014Strained right oblique14
Baseball Prospectus

Beyond the drop in production and concerns over his ability to stay on the field, Ramirez also has become a liability on defense, particularly at shortstop. In fact, that has been the case for the past several seasons, but he's managed to stick at shortstop simply because the Dodgers haven't had any other worthy options.

Remember, this is a player who was shifted to third base when he was still with the Miami Marlins, and that was in 2012, two years ago now. For the record, he wasn't especially good at the hot corner, either.

Here's a look at Ramirez's defensive numbers since arriving in 2006, based on defensive runs saved:

Hanley Ramirez's Defensive Runs Saved By Year
SEASONPOSITIONDRS
2006SS-3
2007SS-28
2008SS-3
2009SS2
2010SS-19
2011SS-13
20123B/SS-11
2013SS3
2014SS-9
Baseball Reference

Between his lack of range, diminishing agility and inconsistent hands, Ramirez needs to be playing third base full time going forward. At least that way, maybe his D will play up at a less demanding position, and he can put his arm to good use.

In a way, it's rather telling that the Dodgers—with their aggressive, star-hoarding, eager-to-spend ownership in place—never got around to extending Ramirez at some point this year before he hits the open market and 29 other teams can have at him.

So why, despite all of the potential performance-, health- and position-related pitfalls, might the team that lands Ramirez be expected to overpay for him? Plain and simple: supply and demand.

As Matt Snyder of CBS Sports writes about the free-agent shortstops on the market:

It's Hanley Ramirez and everyone else. Past Ramirez, the list of free agent shortstops who are capable starters: Stephen Drew and Jed Lowrie. Asdrubal Cabrera wants to move back to shortstop, but he's better suited to play second. Past that, you're looking at Clint Barmes.

Among free agents, Jed Lowrie, who comes with his own defensive "short"comings, might be the best option at the position after Ramirez.
Among free agents, Jed Lowrie, who comes with his own defensive "short"comings, might be the best option at the position after Ramirez.LM Otero/Associated Press

Not the most exciting list, huh?

While there are some quality options outside of Ramirez at third base—namely Pablo Sandoval, Chase Headley and possibly Aramis Ramirez, who has a mutual option with the Milwaukee Brewers—Ramirez is clearly the biggest name there, too.

That means Ramirez will be able to command the biggest payday.

Also pushing the odds that Ramirez will get a fat paycheck? The big-market and/or big-spending clubs with a need at shortstop or third base heading into the offseason include: the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets and, of course, the Dodgers. The San Francisco Giants could be in the market, too, but only if they don't re-sign Sandoval.

Because the supply is low and the demand high, Ramirez is going to find himself sitting pretty this winter as he chooses between a number of teams jockeying to fork over nine-figure salaries his way.

Whether Ramirez will be worth the amount he eventually gets, however, is a real concern, given everything covered.

The bottom line is, as great a player as Ramirez once was—a player he occasionally still shows flashes of—he's not just going to get paid this offseason, he's going to get overpaid.

Statistics are accurate through the 2014 season and courtesy of MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. 

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