If the new market inefficiency had anything to do with quotes and buzz words, the Miami Taxpayers would appear to have a distinct advantage. In addition to team president Larry Beinfest humourously informing the media masses gathered for the Heath Bell unveiling that the team was going to tender a contract to “the reliever formerly known as Leo Nunez,” owner Jeffrey Loria had an interesting response when he was asked about Hanley Ramirez switching positions from shortstop to third base in order to make room for the newly signed Jose Reyes.
Hanley is a super-professional. We will work with him, make everything comfortable for him.
Only a couple of weeks ago, the super-professional was quoted as saying:
I’m the shortstop. I’ve always been a shortstop.
Unfortunately, for Ramirez, he isn’t much of a shortstop, and has never been much of a shortstop. As good as he’s been at the plate in his six year career, Ramirez has been below average in the field both in terms of defensive metrics and observation.
I’ve written about this before, but I wonder if his lack of arm strength causes him to rush plays for which a superior shortstop could afford to wait. His ability to turn double plays is the best part of his defensive game, which to me suggests that his hands and footwork aren’t terrible. If this is true, I’m not so certain that placing him at third base is the Taxpayer’s best plan of action. His new position would not only result in a decreased value in positional adjustment for moving from shortstop to third base, but because fielding that position relies so heavily on arm strength, it’s not likely to positively affect his defensive abilities.
I really don’t understand why the team wouldn’t consider moving Ramirez a position in the other direction. His lack of arm strength wouldn’t have the same negative impact as it would manning the hot corner, and his close to average fielding of double plays suggests that second base wouldn’t be as big of a chore to master, in terms of hands and foot work. While the positional decrease in value would be similar as a move to third, his “improvements” in defense would mean Ramirez was contributing at a similar level as to what we’d expect from him playing shortstop.
Such a move wouldn’t be unique. While it’s not shocking that most teams field the better defensive player at second rather than third base, I was surprised to learn that in today’s game, the average second baseman is actually better offensively than the average third baseman.
Unfortunately for the Taxpayers, in addition to the Reyes and Bell signing, the team inexplicably locked up Omar Infante, agreeing to pay him $8 million for his next two years of service. His defense at second base this past season makes his total wins above replacement in 2011 look better than it is, but over the course of his career he’s been only slightly above average at second. While he hasn’t spent as much time at third base, he’s also been judged to be bit better defender at third base.
So, where does the hesitancy to test drive Ramirez at second base come from?