The only way that Hanley Ramirez could look like more of a douche bag in this picture would be if he had on Kanye West sunglasses.
Basically the second that Jose Reyes signed on the dotted line with the Miami Marlins, Hanley Ramirez future has become a huge point of speculation. He’s become something of a contingency plan for Mariners fans that are looking for the team to sign Prince Fielder, also.
I’m not egotistical enough to believe that the Mariners front office reads this website, but as fans, we shouldn’t want Hanley Ramirez.
As fans we have the luxury of job security. There may be a time when the Mariners don’t want Jack Zduriencik to be their general manager anymore, but unless we decide to collectively go streaking across Safeco Field, the Mariners will welcome us into their place of work with open arms until the end of time. We don’t have to answer for our process when the results of our decisions are bad. Jack Zduriencik must make decisions based on probabilities, decisions that are documented, and damning when the results are bad.
If the Mariners trade for Hanley Ramirez, it is probable that the results will be bad.
Though Ramirez has been one of the best players in baseball over the past half-decade, he seems to have lost some of his fire over the past two years. It’s not my job to speculate on why, but it also isn’t the Mariners job to rehab his ego. That said, at his best Ramirez isn’t a perfect fit on the Mariners.
The only reason he’s even possibly available is because he seems insistent on playing shortstop. He’s a bad defensive shortstop, and the Mariners have one of the best defenders in the game at shortstop. If Ramirez were amicable to a move to third base, he’d be more valuable to the team, but if he were amicable to a move to third base he’d probably be off limits.
Another concern is the effect of switching leagues on a player. Unless you count the two hitless plate appearances that Ramirez had as a member of the Red Sox in 2005, Ramirez has spent his entire career hitting in the National League. We’ve seen how the switch from the junior circuit can hurt a player’s production. We saw it from Jeff Cirillo. We saw it from Adrian Beltre. Richie Sexson. Rich Aurilia.
There is also the effect that Safeco has on right-handed hitters that hurts Ramirez value in Seattle. The team shouldn’t completely avoid right-handed hitters. Any good team needs balance. However, when you factor in the cost that Ramirez will have in terms of prospects, or money, all of his points of value must be considered. He doesn’t have Safeco-trancendent power, though he’s hit in a pitcher-friendly environment in the past.
What is the most unnerving about Ramirez, whether it be because of his ego, or because of his weight gain, or because of missing dreadlocks, or whatever, is that he’s declined massively as a player the past two seasons.
There are players who drop off out of nowhere and their drop off can be attributed to bad luck, or injury, or any variety of other factors. While Ramirez may have some of those things to blame over the past two seasons, that doesn’t appear to be the only culprit.
From 2007-09 Ramirez posted a wRC+ of 148, and over the past two years his wRC+ has dropped to 117.
Don’t get me wrong, having a shortstop or third baseman that is 17 percent better than league average at the plate has a lot of value, even with his below-average defense, evidenced by Ramirez 5.9 WAR over the past two years. But those numbers are down from the prior three years, where his worst year (5.7 WAR) was nearly as good as Ramirez two years combined.
So what is wrong with Ramirez?
I’m not a professional scout, but what I do know that is according to Fangraphs plate discipline statistics Ramirez has actually gotten better. He’s swinging at less pitches outside the strike zone, and his swinging strike rate has remained essentially the same. His strikeouts have remained static enough that they aren’t cause for concern.
What is cause for concern though is that he’s hitting a lot more balls on the ground than he used to. One reason may be that teams are throwing him less fastballs and more off-speed pitches the past two years.
His groundball rates have floated between 38 and 46 percent, and ballooned over 50 percent in each of the past two seasons.
What Ramirez gained was an increased walk rate.
Maybe a hitting coach told Ramirez to stop swinging at so many pitches. Maybe the league scouted Ramirez, and realized he doesn’t handle sliders and cut fastballs as well as straight fastballs. No matter what it is though, he’s hitting grounders and that has really sapped his power production.
His isolated power has dropped from .224 to .160 in those years.
Considering that he’s owed $46 million over the next three years, and is soon to be 28 years old, such a financially crippling move would be bad for the Mariners, especially considering all the things that Ramirez has going against him besides money and age.