Hanley Ramirez likes Jose Reyes just fine, but he’s made it clear that he sees himself as a shortstop. With the Marlins now reportedly having landed Reyes, Ramirez is going to be asked to change positions, probably to third base. How that plays with Hanley could well determine the course of the Marlins franchise for these next few years.
Make no mistake: Ramirez is an even more dynamic player than Reyes. He finished sixth in the NL in OPS in both 2008 and 2009. Reyes has never finished in the top 10. Adjusting for position, he placed second in the NL in offensive WAR in 2008 and ’09 and third in 2007. Reyes came in third last season, but his next highest finish with ninth in 2006. Overall, Ramirez is a career .306/.380/.506 hitter. Reyes, the older of the two players by a few months, comes in at .292/.341/.441.
Ramirez, though, has fallen far these last two years, and while Reyes has long battled leg injuries, Ramirez has struggled to overcome shoulder problems. After playing in at least 150 games each of his first four seasons, Ramirez dropped to 142 games in 2010 and 92 games during his extremely disappointing 2011 season.
If Ramirez goes to third base quietly and resumes playing more like he did three years ago, the Marlins will suddenly have one of the league’s most potent lineups:
CF Emilio Bonifacio
RF Mike Stanton
1B Gaby Sanchez
LF Logan Morrison
C John Buck
2B Omar Infante
If Ramirez instead sulks and forces his way out, the Marlins aren’t likely to get nearly the return he would have brought as one of the game’s three most valuable properties in 2009. Oh, there will be offers: the Red Sox and Tigers would be crazy not to bid and the Brewers could try to cobble together an offer from what’s left of their minor league system. But the Marlins have a much better chance of finding their way back to the postseason with Ramirez and Reyes together than with Reyes and whatever Ramirez brings in return. Hopefully for them, Ramirez grows up a little, embraces the Marlins’ new commitment to winning and tries to become the best third baseman he can be. If it goes the other way, then the team isn’t likely to contend just yet.