How could anyone see this coming? And why are the Sox doing this?
With Dustin Pedroia coming back from injury, the Sox instead seemed destined to part ways with Blake Swihart, a raw talent whose perpetual state of positional limbo has stunted his development to such a degree that he’s borderline unusable as both a catcher and an outfielder.
Instead, the Sox moved on from Ramirez, who has become an mainstay in the middle of their lineup. In a season when they’re going to have to outslug a nasty New York Yankees lineup, the move to ditch Hanley seemed odd.
The move seemed forward-thinking at a time when the Sox might be in the mix to win now.
But a few factors made this decision the right one. The Red Sox are paying their players the largest sum in baseball. They needed to begin to shed cap space if they wanted any breathing room in the coming years. By ridding themselves of Hanley’s deal, they will free up money in 2019 because they have avoided allowing Ramirez to hit a plate-appearance total (497), which would guarantee his $22 million salary next season.
Hanley may be gone. But his absence could help the Sox retain Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. That would make it all worthwhile.
What’s more, having Ramirez and J.D. Martinez made for a difficult lineup conundrum. Both players are liabilities on defense. Playing them as designated hitters is in the best interest of the team. But of course, Alex Cora has to put one of them in the field. Ramirez has proved serviceable at first base — even if it’s something he’s made clear he doesn’t want to do. Martinez can play in the outfield. If those two bats are electric, Cora figures out how to get everyone their at-bats. But all that shuffling makes less sense when Ramirez’s season was as ho-hum as it has been. He’s at 0.1 WAR with 45 hits, 29 RBI, six homers and 35 strikeouts in 44 games. His slash-line is .254/.313/.395/.708. As noted by FRS Baseball’s Robert Murray, Ramirez has zero hits in his last 21 at-bats while hitting .175 in his last 15 games.
Those struggles were enough to for Cora to call Ramirez out after an 0-for-4 performance in the Sox’ loss to the Rays on Thursday.
Ramirez is a beloved character in Boston with a fun personality on a team, frankly, devoid of any other big, lovable personalities. But the Red Sox were paying big for his bat, and they weren’t impressed with the return on their investment. Cutting ties with the slugger prematurely may feel like a huge loss. But statistically, the Red Sox may not suffer.
And they’ve got a lot more to lose in the coming offseasons with a handful of young stars in need of new contracts.