This is way too early to be arguing about whether Hanley Ramirez should be resigned to a massive deal, or not. Besides, this was briefly discussed here, with the consensus being “the Dodgers should resign him because he’s the best there is out on the free agent market, and he loves the city.”
However, with putrid defensive showings in the past couple of weeks, along with a Jon Heyman article shedding some light on negotiations, and the very mysterious starting of Alexander Guerrero in last night’s AAA game, it’s interesting to think about an idea where Ramirez isn’t with the Dodgers next season.
No one is happy about Hanley Ramirez and his defense. It’s simply awful, even when he was above average last season, it sure didn’t feel like it. You feel impending doom every time a baseball gets hit to the shortstop in a high leverage situation nowadays. Hanley simply has no range, and it’s showing in his defensive metrics, and traditional stats now.
You can note that this upcoming offseason has a few different options at shortstop, all who are starters for their respective clubs. Names like Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, J.J. Hardy come up, and it will be interesting to see just how the team handles the shortstop position going into the offseason. Now, this isn’t a comprehensive profile on every shortstop that’s available, a lot can happen, a new Cuban defector could pop up, a team who suddenly struggles massively decides to trade their biggest star, but this is definitely a primer on what could happen, and something to keep in mind the next time a chopper gets hit to Ramirez.
I know Hanley is frustrating, and Hanley isn’t going to be a shortstop for much longer, but the Dodgers need to look at the rest of the options potentially available and realize that there is no perfect solution. So lets look at some of the options:
Not a lot of people know Lowrie, mainly because he plays for Oakland, but he’s actually been pretty good. He can play all over the diamond, he’s a solid 3b and an okay 2b. He has hit .263/.334/.425 for his career, which is perfectly acceptable. He’s going to be a free agent and going to command a decent deal, but I would loath a signing. Jed Lowrie is a putrid defensive, SS DRS rates him at -24 runs saved for his career. Plus, not unlike Hanley Ramirez, he is hurt constantly, he strained a neck muscle on Sunday, and he’s only started 100 games in a season once, which that was last season.
So lets see, he’s not as good a hitter as Hanley Ramirez (career 107 wRC+ for Lowrie vs a career 132 wRC+ for Ramirez), he’s just as bad a defender, the biggest plus Lowrie has defensively, versatility, is wasted knowing that Uribe, Gonzalez and some Guerrero/Gordon combination have the other spots on lockdown for awhile. You don’t give Lowrie a big deal hoping one of the other IF’s regress, or combusts and becomes bad at baseball. Oh and Lowrie is very much unlike Dee Gordon, accruing -5.0 runs of negative value for his career. Pass
Asdrubal Cabrera is just the type of player who isn’t elite with the bat, is a putrid defender, but has managed to stay at shortstop for longer than imaginable, it speaks to how difficult it is to find a good defensive SS who can hit enough to be useful. Cabrera has somehow managed to play nearly 6000 innings at SS at the major league level, impressive because he isn’t a good SS at all. DRS (defensive runs saved) has him weighing in at 17 runs below average at SS, and 43.8 runs below average according to UZR for his career. He just can’t defend at a major league level at SS.
We like to get riled up about Hanley’s range, but Cabrera is probably worse. Using the defensive metric Range Runs Above Average, Asdrubal Cabrera has been worth, negative 46.4 runs for his career, Hanley Ramirez has been worth negative 31.3 according to the same metric. Both are bad, but no one is signing Hanley for his defense. Sure, Cabrera is younger, but he doesn’t have nearly the same bat Hanley does. Asdrubal Cabrera’s career wRC+ is 106, Hanley Ramirez has had a single season below 106 wRC+, and that was the season immediately following his shoulder surgery. Somehow in 562 PA’s last season ACab compiled 0.6 fWAR, so he’s prone to having a stinker of a season. I’ll pass on Cabrera.
Everyone loves Hardy, he plays hard,I suppose, he plays exceptional defense which is a first for the types of free agents i’ve been covering, he has power, compiling 77 home runs from 2011-2013 , what’s not to like? Well lets start with his OBP. He hasn’t shown much propensity to get on base with any regularity throughout his career. He’s topped a .330 OBP in his career once, that was in 2008. In the 5 years since then his OBP sits at .301. Dee Gordon’s career OBP entering this season was .301. Now OBP isn’t an all encompassing stat, not by any means, but it’s a decently important one.
But hey, that’s okay if you’re an incredible defender right? Dee Gordon wasn’t, and Hardy certainly is, and a .301 OBP was working for one of those players entering this season. We all know what age does to a defender. It mauls them. There’s a reason there are only 2 shortstops over the age of 33 playing everyday today (Hardy turns 33 next year). Omar Vizquel, Ozzie Smith, Rey Sanchez, Cal Ripken are outliers, defense doesn’t age well. So it’s not as if we can expect Hardy to be a defensive whiz over the course of his next contract like he was over the course of his current one. And when one of your two best tools are taken away due to age, and you find yourself being a below average defensive shortstop who can’t get on base, you aren’t exactly a valuable player. So I’ll pass.
That’s it for the free agent shortstops. No one ever thinks Erisbel Arruebarrena will hit enough to be a starter. The most optimistic expectations of him are a player who provides top 5 defense at the position with a mid 500 OPS. Defense matters, but so does a .550 OPS.
Alex Guerrero would be interesting, but again, even if he can stick at SS, he probably wouldn’t be adding much value with his glove, and he’s certainly not Hanley Ramirez with the bat.
Corey Seager would be interesting, but again, he may not stick at SS, and we’re looking at a mid-2015 arrival at best.
I have been waffling on this for awhile, I figured whoever performs the best out of the free agent shortstops could be had for way less money than Hanley, and I think I would have been fine with a non-Ramirez shortstop on the Dodgers, after all, there’s no possible way that any of them could be worse than Hanley. But after really analyzing the options, none of those upcoming free agents are that much better with the glove that they’re worth the significant downgrade with the bat.
The best thing about Hanley Ramirez, is he’s the only free agent in this class who’s bat give him a prayer of being worth over 3.0 wins. In Hanley’s second worst season (where he was still feeling the effects of the shoulder surgery), he was worth 2.9 wins above replacement, even accounting for his usual mediocre defense. I am a Hanley fan and think he’s by far the best option to play SS for the Dodgers next year, is he worth paying an disgusting amount of money just to prevent J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, or Jed Lowrie from starting at SS for the 2015 Dodgers? Maybe.