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The winter meetings are fully underway, and teams across both leagues are making significant free agent splashes. Perhaps the biggest story, the Miami Marlins are buying players like an American League East team as they prepare for life at a new stadium. The question for Miami is whether or not they will be able to draw fans as they struggled to do over the last several seasons.
Now, they are hopeful that the new stadium, uniforms, and drastic changes to the roster will bring in fans so that they can hold onto players like Jose Reyes, who they signed this offseason for the lengths of their contracts instead of unloading the stars through trades down the road because of their finances, as the franchise has done in the past. However, a more intriguing storyline for the here and now is the ripple effect of the signing of the star shortstop Reyes, as Hanley Ramirez already possesses the position.
Ramirez is known for having some attitude problems throughout his career. He started out in the Red Sox farm system as a highly touted shortstop, but was dealt in the trade for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Since that time, Ramirez has had an extreme career in terms of ups and downs. He is a career .306 hitter, collecting the NL Batting Crown in 2009 while batting .342 in 151 games. However, last season he struggled mightily, batting .243 in an injury plagued year in which he played under 100 games. New manager Ozzie Guillen could potentially have a problem on his hands if Ramirez is not happy sliding over to third base with the addition of Reyes, as he is largely reported to being asked to do. There have even been whispers that despite the mega team assembling in South Beach, Ramirez would prefer to change uniforms rather than positions.
From a New England standpoint, the idea of Ramirez being traded is very appealing. The Red Sox have longed for a shortstop ever since they originally traded Ramirez and saw him blossom into one of the best players in the game in Florida. If he is added to the trade block this winter, it would be no surprise if the Sox at least made an offer for the slugger. The Marlins would be looking for at least one major league ready player at a position of need, and likely promising prospects as well. Considering the entire issue of his potential departure is based around his disapproval of playing third base, it would be appropriate that the Marlins receive a third baseman in return for Ramirez. They are also in need of some outfield help and could certainly use another pitcher. While the Red Sox farm system may have been notably depleted after the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, they still have the pieces to make a move for Ramirez if he does want out of Miami.
As a fan, the idea of Hanley Ramirez back on the Red Sox as their starting shortstop at the top of an already dangerous lineup is very appealing. He is a right-handed bat who hits for some power and gets on base plenty. However, his attitude problems over the years could be enough of a deal breaker right now, especially when the Sox are sorting through enough of their own clubhouse egos and a change in manager. Ramirez might complicate things more than fix them. At the same time, teams are building up all around baseball and are matching the dream team concept the Red Sox attempted last year with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Angels, Rangers, Tigers, Yankees, and Rays could all win 90+ games next season, and the Sox need to be a part of that group to have a chance at redemption.
I would elect to not be aggressive with a pursuit of Ramirez, but at least make an offer to Miami. Will Middlebrooks is a young infielder who could help the Marlins at third base. Josh Reddick has already been discussed on the trade block as the Red Sox discuss Andrew Bailey with Oakland. Adding Hanley Ramirez would be quite the boost at shortstop, and would certainly make the Sox offense seem nearly perfect from top to bottom in the lineup. One reasonable offer to test Miami’s interest in moving Ramirez could certainly be worthwhile, but in the end I doubt the Marlins will be moving him anywhere, except from shortstop.