Monday, August 24, 2015
Despite Hanley Ramirez looking like one of the Bad News Bears in left field, the Red Sox have been particularly stubborn about keeping him there all season long.
While it's entirely evident that the Rammer-in-left experiment has failed miserably, many have hoped that the Sox would try him at first base after Mike Napoli was traded to Texas.
Yet, just last week, acting manager Torey Lovullo had this to say about Ramirez:
"No, he’s not getting any type of work at first base at this point. Hanley Ramirez is our left fielder and I think we’re going to stay with that. We’re going to try and get him the necessary work and necessary reps and necessary innings out there to get him to the point he feels comfortable and we become a championship defense in the outfield. It takes time. He’s a converted infielder and it’s a tough process. He’s further from the ball and moving and traveling at different angles and I feel comfortable saying Hanley is doing the right thing, working as hard as he can to make it happen as fast as he can.”
Get that? After nearly five months of baseball, plus six weeks of preparation in spring training, Lovullo still wants to get Ramirez the “necessary work” and the "necessary reps" and the "necessary innings" to "get him to the point he feels comfortable" in left field.
When do the Red Sox cry uncle and finally admit that it’s over? The Ramirez in left field experiment has failed.
Ben Cherington, who signed Ramirez to a four-year, $88 million this offseason, was finally honest about that failure while attending the Saberseminar at Boston University last Friday.
“Nobody knew. We didn't know what he would be defensively in left field,” Cherington said to those at the event. “He'd never done it. So it's impossible to know. We made a bet based on history of what players look like moving from a middle infield position to another position. And there's data that can help us make an educated guess. He wanted to and seemed committed to doing it … It hasn't gone well.”
Maybe it's easier for Cherington to be honest now that he’s leaving the Red Sox. Ramirez is no longer his problem, but the "player without a position" is one of the messes that Cherington has left behind.
It’s now Dave Dombrowski’s problem.
Ramirez is widely viewed by scouts as no longer adequately capable of playing shortstop. So, it’s not likely that the Sox will find a trade partner with that position in mind for Ramirez.
Ramirez has never played first base, and he has started just 97 games at third base over the course of his 10 big-league seasons.
With David Ortiz coming back as the team’s DH again next year (his contract has already vested), that is not an option for Ramirez on the Red Sox.
If scouts agree that Ramirez is a defensive liability everywhere on the diamond, and is truly a player without a position, then he is only suited to be a designated hitter.
Aside from the Red Sox, there are only 14 other teams that use a DH, and not all of them want, or need, Ramirez.
That limits the trade possibilities considerably.
When it comes to figuring out what to do with Ramirez, Dombrowski will have his hands full this offseason.
There are so many problems with the player, and so few solutions.
The Sox would surely have to pay a significant portion of the contract to any taker and, assuming that Ramirez is only suited to play DH, it also means the Red Sox would be paying him to play against them -- and potentially beat them -- for a rival AL team multiple times a year for at least the next three (and perhaps four) seasons.
There is a rotation to fill, and bullpen to build, but the Hanley Ramirez problem will be among the most challenging for the Red Sox new President of Baseball Operations.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
In the wake of Red Sox Manager John Farrell’s announcement that he has stage 1 lymphoma, I wondered how his team would react.
Would they respond positively to bench coach Torey Lovullo, who is acting as interim manager in Farrell’s absence?
There was a resounding answer.
The Red Sox crushed the Mariners in Lovullo's first game as acting manager. The Sox offense pounded out 15 runs on 21 hits, both season-bests.
After that outburst, on Friday night, the Sox offense outdid that stellar performance by accounting for 26 hits, including 11 extra-base knocks, in a 22-10 beat down of the Mariners on Saturday.
Two consecutive blowout victories for Boston.
The first concern is surely the health of John Farrell.
However, one has to wonder what becomes of him if this team goes on a late-season run in his absence.
This Red Sox team should be much better than it has been, given its assembled roster. It is a group of past All Stars, proven veterans, and top prospects.
Yet, they just haven't performed. There has been no sense of passion, pride, or urgency. There has to be an underlying reason.
Somehow, Farrell simply hasn't motivated this team.
When Farrell announced Friday that he was immediately leaving the team to seek medical treatment, the Red Sox were 50-64 -- a .439 winning percentage.
If Lovullo can markedly improve on that over the season's final 48 games, it will have to give ownership pause for consideration.
Over five years as a major league manager, Farrell has just one winning season -- 2013, the year the Red Sox won the World Series.
Overall, Farrell has lost far more games than he’s won, something that would, and should, normally cost a manager his job.
How the Red Sox perform for Lovullo in Farrelll's absence down the stretch will be telltale.
Were these blowout victories a tribute to Farrell, or a positive response — even an embrace — to Lovullo?
If these wins are any indication of things to come, Farrell’s job may be in jeopardy, and Lovullo could be in for a longer ride as manager than anyone expected.
Monday, August 10, 2015
Padres righty James Shields has cleared revocable trade waivers, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports. This means San Diego is now free to deal Shields to any team.
What does this mean for the Boston Red Sox? Well, maybe they could pursue a swap of bad contracts with the Padres, sending Pablo Sandoval to San Diego in exchange for Shields.
Teams routinely, and quietly, place players on waivers in August (especially high-priced veterans) to gauge the interest of other teams.
A big-league player must pass through revocable waivers before his team can trade him without restriction. These waivers last 47 hours. If no one claims him in that period, his team can trade him anywhere.
Given the size of Sandoval's contract, and his performance this season, it is highly unlikely that any team would claim him.
The Padres outbid the Red Sox for Sandoval last offseason, yet the free agent third baseman chose Boston anyway.
The Red Sox may prefer to have a high-priced, veteran pitcher (albeit an aging and overpriced one) anchoring their staff for the next few seasons, rather than an overweight, overpaid third baseman who is in longterm decline.
The 33-year-old Shields is owed roughly $2.25 million for the remainder of this season, and then $21 million in each of the next three seasons, plus a $16 million club option (with a $2 million buyout) for 2019.
This means Shields is guaranteed at least $65 million from 2016 through 2018.
The righty can opt out of his deal following the 2016 season, meaning the Sox could make a move thinking they’d only be committed to Shields for little over a year.
However, Shields will turn 35 in December 2016, so he’s more likely to stick with his current deal since teams may be hesitant to pay a pitcher $44 million guaranteed for his age-35 and age-36 seasons.
Shields is battle-tested in the AL East, having pitched for Tampa for seven seasons (2006-2012).
Over 10 seasons, Shields has a 122-94 record, with a 3.72 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 1,786 strikeouts through 2,056.2 innings, amounting to 3.56 Ks per walk.
The 29-year-old Sandoval is under contract for the next four seasons, with a club option for 2020.
Sandoval is owed $17 million in each of the next two seasons, and $18 million per season in 2018 and 2019. There is a $17 million club option for 2020, with a $5 million buyout.
In total, Sandoval is guaranteed at least $75 million through 2019.
San Diego needs a third baseman (Will Middlebrooks didn't pan out), and Boston needs a veteran starter.
Such a deal could make sense for both organizations.