Hanley Ramirez’s time with the Boston Red Sox has come to a sudden and unexpected end. The club announced on Friday that the 34-year-old Ramirez will be designated for assignment to make room for Dustin Pedroia, who is coming off the disabled list after offseason knee surgery. The Red Sox now have seven days to trade Ramirez or release him.
This is surprising for a few reasons. First and foremost, Ramirez hadn’t been doing badly this season. He’d been staying healthy, something he’s struggled to do throughout his career, and had racked up a .254/.313/.395 triple slash while playing first base and serving as the designated hitter. It’s not stellar, but it’s not the kind of batting line that gets a player DFA’d. Though in baseball, recency is king. Hanley is currently mired in an 0-for-20 slump and has hit a depressing .163/.200/.300 in the month of May.
Secondly, Ramirez still has one more guaranteed year on his contract. In November 2014, the Red Sox signed him to a four-year, $88 million contract. No matter where Hanley ends up this season, whether he ends up playing on another team or hanging out on the beach, the Red Sox will owe him $15 million. And if he does end up playing for another team, that team wouldn’t have to pay any part of that $15 million — they would only owe Hanley the league minimum, $545,000.
That contract is most likely one of the things that led to his DFA, though, since it includes a costly vesting option for a fifth year. If Ramirez has 1,050 plate appearances during the 2017 and 2018 seasons combined, he’d be owed an additional $22 million for 2019. To get there, he needed only 497 more plate appearances. He’d already racked up 195 (he’s appeared in 38 of the Red Sox’s 50 games), and at that rate would definitely make it to 497. If the Red Sox weren’t interested in retaining him beyond 2018 — or paying the additional $22 million — it makes sense for them to cut ties with him now.
It’s a less-than-auspicious end for Hanley and the Red Sox. Boston is the team that originally signed him back in 2000, and he made his major league debut with them in 2005. He was traded to the Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins) after the 2005 season, which is where he had some of his most productive years. He was voted the National League Rookie of the Year in 2006, and over five-and-a-half healthy seasons he hit .306/.380/.506 with 134 home runs and 214 doubles. The Marlins traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2012, and his next several seasons were filled with injuries and defensive miscues. He signed with the Red Sox in 2014, and his tenure began with an ill-fated left field experiment that ended before the season was over.
It seemed like Hanley had come full circle with the Red Sox. He had been considered a negative clubhouse presence in previous years, but Mookie Betts recently told reporters that Ramirez has been a major part of his blistering start. While this is the end for Hanley and the Red Sox, hopefully he finds a new home in another clubhouse.
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