“I’ll play third”. This is what Hanley Ramirez reportedly told Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena prior to the start of the World Baseball Classic. Pena was faced with the task of finding playing time for three shortstops in Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Erick Aybar. Reyes and Ramirez have performed somewhat similarly at shortstop, at least in terms of defense, over the past few seasons. Ramirez, though, who converted to third base to begin 2012 with the Marlins, has become a bat-first player.
The Dominican Republic’s logjam at short is a nice problem to have for a brief tournament like the WBC. Reyes took the starting job, backed up by Aybar, and Ramirez split time between third and designated hitter. This poses a bit of problem for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are heading into the 2013 season with Ramirez tabbed as their starting shortstop, and the 29-year old has not played the position in nearly three weeks.
Ramirez is probably better suited to play third base for the Dodgers, but that would require the team to consider runnning Dee Gordon out at shortstop everyday. This is problematic because the slight 24-year old hit .228/.280/.281 in 330 plate appearances last season and didn’t flash the brand of elite defense required of a piss-poor hitting shortstop.
So, the Dodgers are left with few options. The club can thrust Ramirez back into his role at shortstop to finish out Spring Training following the conclusion of the WBC, or they can take their chances with Gordon, Nick Punto(!), Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr., and/or Justin Sellers at short and bump Luis Cruz from third base for Hanley. Gordon’s defense is still developing, but, as Eno Sarris noted in this Fangraphs piece from February, all of the other aforementioned shortstop options rate better than Ramirez in terms of UZR/150.
As our friend and fellow Getting Blanked contributor would go on to say, perhaps there’s something to the notion that Ramirez played better once he got out of Miami and that the loss of a defensive runs is manageable with Ramirez at short so as long as his bat produces. The reality of the situation is that Ramirez is closer to the 3.0 fWAR player he was last season than he is to the 7.5 win player of a few years ago.
Some problems can’t be remedied by simply throwing some cash around, which seems to be the go-to in Dodger land these days. It’s throwing money around and the absorption of large contracts that has ostensibly landed them in a situation where Hanley Ramirez is expected to play shortstop everyday in the first place.
Via Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times