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Los Angeles Dodgers Should Now Turn Their Attention to Locking up Hanley Ramirez

January 25th, 2014 at 5:00 AM
By Jimmy Reynolds

The Los Angeles Dodgers entered this offseason with two of their superstar players entering the final year of their contracts, a time when teams look to negotiate extensions with these players so as to avoid the bidding war that could potentially ensue on the open market. The Dodgers have already locked up Clayton Kershaw to a seven-year, $215 million deal that includes an opt-out clause after the fifth year. That deal looks even more reasonable after the New York Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million deal (Tanaka’s opt-out occurs after the fourth year) earlier this week. Aside from arbitration negotiations and the possible pursuit of a fifth starter, the only major business remaining for the Dodgers this offseason seems to be reaching terms on an extension with Hanley Ramirez, who may be in line for a major payday of his own. There are questions that may complicate this, and the Dodgers should take great care as they proceed with Ramirez.

'Hanley Ramirez wins the game in the 14th with a homerun.' photo (c) 2013, Not That Bob James - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Since his arrival from the Miami Marlins during mid-season of 2012, Ramirez has been incredibly productive, but only when he has been healthy. Last season he appeared in 86 games, nearly half of his season derailed by various injuries. Despite these health issues, Ramirez was still good for 5.1 WAR to go with an OPS of 1.040 and a slash line of .345/.402/638. He was able to stabilize an inconsistent Dodgers lineup, and was one half of the juggernaut that spurred the Dodgers to their historic 42-8 run in 2013 (Yasiel Puig being the other).

While Ramirez has been productive and seemingly happy as a Dodger thus far, one has to wonder if the dour and sulking Ramirez that the Miami Marlins came to know will ever return. Perhaps predictions of his decline came too quickly, and the high expectations placed upon a Marlins team featuring Ramirez and Jose Reyes on the left side of the infield magnified his reported “attitude issues.” Regarding his supposed decline, Ramirez suffered from an injured shoulder during the years in which he did not live up to expectations, a injury that he seems to be fully recovered from, or at least one that has not limited his recent production.

It seems that many attributed Ramirez’ decreased production to the complacency generated by his contract extension with the Marlins, and his feuding with former manager Fredi Gonzalez likely contributed to his lackluster reputation at the time. Instead, it seems that injuries played a significant role, and the forced shift from shortstop to third base certainly did not help matters.

'Corey Seager Spring Training 3.14.13' photo (c) 2000, Dustin Nosler - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Ramirez appears to be a solid long-term option at shortstop for the Dodgers. Aside from highly-touted prospect Corey Seager, the farm system is fairly thin on talent at the position. While Seager has been playing short thus far, most scouts project that his 6-foot-4, 215 pound frame will be better suited for third base. Signing Ramirez to an extension would not block any talented minor-leaguers, and Ramirez is arguably the best-hitting shortstop in baseball, so it is not as if there are better external options available.

While Ramirez’ contract demands have not been made public, Stan Kasten told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times back in July that the Dodgers “feel comfortable at 36,” indicating that a six year extension may be a possible goal of the 30-year-old Ramirez. The financial terms of the contract should be interesting, as the Dodgers recently showed their first signs of financial restraint in their pursuit of Tanaka, though reports indicated that the Dodgers did not regard Tanaka as highly as other teams.

Ideally, the Ramirez extension will be complete before the team breaks camp to head for their Australian opening day. Given all of the speculation that surrounded the Kershaw extension, the rumor mill could serve as an unwelcome distraction to another highly anticipated season of Dodger baseball

Tags: Baseball, Corey Seager, Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, MLB, Stan Kasten, Yasiel Puig

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