Seattle Mariners Showing Interest In Hanley Ramirez


The Seattle Mariners need offense. I could start every single Mariners-related post written over the last seven years with that sentence and it’d never get old. Because it’s never not true! The Mariners, as always, are in need of some offensive firepower to round out their team. This time the rumor mill has them connected with Hanley Ramirez.

Hanley Ramirez in a nutshell: he’s 30, about to be 31, and made his big league debut for the 2005 Boston Red Sox. He spent most of his career with the Florida Marlins before being shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. He’s a shortstop, if in name alone these days, and boasts a career 133 wRC+ and .300/.373/.500 triple slash.

For the better part of the last decade, Hanley’s been a standard-setter for offense-first middle infielders. His glove, which has never been strong at short, has deteriorated further in recent years, but he’s reportedly willing to play any position for whatever team ends up signing him. This added bit of versatility only makes him a more appealing target, as now pursuing teams know they won’t have to be stuck with him at short for the length of his contract.

Before getting into the contract stuff, there’s the case of the Mariners’ current roster needs. Ramirez represents a top-of-the-market bat, but despite his stated desire to play wherever needed there’s really nowhere obvious for him inthe Mariners defensive alignment. Shortstop, his “natural” position, is doubly occupied. Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano, the team’s best players, are stalwarts at third and second. Which leaves… first base? The outfield? DH?

For a team with a seemingly perpetual middle infield logjam, another middle infielder hardly seems like the solution. But it’s the bat, not the glove, that’s drawn the M’s to Mr. Ramirez, and it’s the promise of that bat that’ll keep the sides negotiating. If they sign Ramirez and have to trade an infielder, well, that’s not a bad problem to have, is it? Last year’s logjam netted the M’s Austin Jackson, after all.

The biggest argument against this is that the Mariners have two players at short who can probably replicate a good portion of Ramirez’s production for a tiny fraction of his cost. Hanley’s going to cost over $100 million, which is just about 100 times more than the combined salaries for Chris Taylor and Brad Miller next year. And newsflash: both those guys are pretty good, and very young.

Taylor’s a high-average, low-power hitter and a truly excellent defensive shortstop. Miller struggled to get on base last year, but has legitimate pop and terrific defense of his own. Neither of them is going to make much more than the league minimum next season, and it seems foolish to suggest that either player has really approached his upside yet. These two are imperative to the Ramirez discussion, as they’re the most likely to be affected by a potential shortstop acquisition.

Hanley Ramirez might cost $20 million a season for each of the next six years. He’s going to be 31 next season, and already has a few years under his belt that hint at an imminent decline phase. Cano and Felix Hernandez are already signed to long-term contracts worth over $20 million a year, occupying about half of the Mariners’ payroll. A third mega-contract would put the mid-market M’s in a tricky position, now and especially going forward.

It’s because of the team’s huge investments in Cano and Hernandez that low-cost, high-impact guys like the current shortstops are extra-valuable in Seattle. Every team wants to load up on cost-controlled youth, but the benefit is amplified for teams with a lot of money tied up in their biggest names. An aging, positionless slugger with a history up the middle is a really scary proposition for a team who’s payroll can only be expected to rise as it’s core starts reaching arbitration and getting expensive.

Of course, there are alternative arguments. Why not just stick him at first or in an outfield corner? Plain and simple, $100 million is a lot for a guy who’s going to be expected to learn a new position on the fly. You’ve already got age and natural decline to worry about, and now you want to move the guy all over the field? Seems like a recipe for disaster.

But he could always just be inserted at shortstop, since Miller and Taylor are excellent trade bait as is. Perhaps you keep one as a backup and trade the other’s upside for a young outfielder or starting pitcher. This is the most reasonable suggestion, but then you’ve punted defense at one of the very most important defensive positions. The M’s had a good-not-great defense last year, and can ill-afford to lose their edge up the middle.

There are ways to get behind the idea of Hanley Ramirez, Seattle Mariner. There are no easy ways, however, as he’s simply not a great bet to maintain his offensive production going forward and would displace important members of the team’s young core. Building a baseball team is all about taking risks. Hanley Ramirez is a tantalizing offensive target with several glaring deficiencies. This looks like a case where the risk outweighs the potential reward, no matter how great it might be.