I see a Hanley Ramirez extension in the near future, so don’t let those Yankee rumblings get to you. There’s no way Hanley Ramirez will be allowed to walk after 2014, and there’s even a slimmer chance that he’d ever wear pinstripes. Hanley wants to be a Dodger for the rest of his career, a bold statement he has made to the media a few times. Even though a contract hasn’t been hammered out yet, you can bet the Dodgers want Hanley in Blue just as much as Hanley wants to remain a Dodger for the long term. With more important contracts like Clayton Kershaw‘s offseason extension and arbitration negotiations, the Dodgers may have been slower in negotiating with Hanley’s representation this winter. Make no mistake, the Dodgers know that a healthy Hanley Ramirez is crucial to their lineup and is essentially their best bat right now considering Matt Kemp has been unable to stay healthy for two seasons now.
The other rumors which have been circulating regarding Ramirez is if and when the Dodgers should move the shortstop over to third base. A stipulation for him to agree to slide over to third could be written within a potential new contract, but the question is do the Dodgers really need to move Hanley to third? If they do (which eventually I would say they would have to if they sign him to a long-term deal), then when?
Some writers, like Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, are conjuring that Hanley’s move to third base could come as early as 2015. While that could be a possibility, I see Hanley’s move to third base to come around 2016 in my opinion. First of all, the Dodgers have Juan Uribe at third base for the next two seasons. The Dodgers re-signed the defensive star to a two-year $15 million deal this offseason, and Uribe should be manning the hot corner through 2015 at the least. There’s no reason to push Uribe to the bench in order to move Hanley over to third base in the next two years. Uribe’s Gold Glove worthy season in 2013 really showcased the third baseman’s expert prowess at his position. With Mark Ellis long gone, and second base being taken over by the inexperience of Alexander Guerrero or possibly Dee Gordon or another utility infielder, having the rock solid defense of Uribe at third is extremely critical.
While Uribe’s comeback year in 2013 can’t be a guarantee of a successful offensive season from Uribe in 2014 or beyond, his defense alone brings value to the team. If the Dodgers should slide Hanley over to third in 2015, push Uribe to the bench, and use Erisbel Arruebarruena at shortstop, that would ultimately water down the lineup’s offense since Arruebarruena is known primarily for his glove only. Uribe still has some jazzy power in those hands, and I’d hate to see his potential wasted on the bench instead of in the field or in the starting lineup. Now if Uribe totally digresses back to 2011 and 2012 Uribe in 2014, then we may have to reevaluate the infield situation. Right now I have no reason to not be optimistic about Uribe’s upcoming season.
Corey Seager will not be ready until 2016 in my opinion. He could progress faster than I think, but I still see him with the need to develop some more in the Dodgers minor league system before he makes his debut for the Dodgers. Almost everyone seems to think that Seager will be eventually moved to third base because of his stature. Ned Colletti has repeatedly said that for now Seager will continue to play at shortstop. I don’t see why Seager cannot have a successful career as a shortstop, even at the Major League level. Sure, he’s a big kid, but so is Hanley Ramirez. Having a shortstop who can hit well, like Hanley, is an extra boost to your lineup out of a position which is usually defensive-centric. Either way, Seager will take over shortstop or third base if he is ready in 2016 or thereafter.
I think the best scenario would be to keep Hanley at shortstop for the next two seasons with Uribe at third. Once Seager is ready, you play Seager at shortstop and move Hanley to third base sometime in 2016. Let Seager begin his MLB career at his natural position, shortstop, until his performance dictates otherwise. Then, in another couple of years once Hanley’s contract is up(the new one I’m presuming will be completed here soon), then you can move Seager over to third if necessary.
Where does Arruebarruena fit into all of this? Well, for one, he isn’t even in the country yet. He needs some more development
when it comes to hitting, and even though it is rumored that he will get around $25 million to play for the Dodgers, that isn’t an official number just yet. Picking up Arruebarruena gives the Dodgers depth at shortstop and a big defensive weapon if needed. With the rebranding of Dee Gordon and the overall feeling that Justin Sellers will never be a permanent solution at shortstop for the Dodgers, signing a young shortstop like Erisbel is a smart move.
The move that may not be too smart is uprooting Hanley from shortstop too soon. Although Hanley seems to be okay with the future change, he doesn’t want to be shuffled back and forth understandably. Once the Dodgers decide to move Hanley, they won’t be able to change that decision. Hanley, although not the most impressive shortstop out there, was acceptable at short last season. With his potent swing, his defensive mediocrity really is easier to accept. Unless Hanley is not healthy enough to play shortstop over the course of the next two seasons, you keep him where he is comfortable and allow Seager to develop into the future shortstop for the Dodgers.