Hanley Ramirez began a minor league rehab assignment tonight with High-A Jupiter and could be back as soon as Tuesday against the Phillies. However, the more interesting news is where he might find himself in the lineup upon his return.
According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez is considering using him out of the leadoff spot again.
“Let’s see where he is at,” Rodriguez said. “I haven’t decided that yet. It could be first or it could be second.”
Asked directly if Rodriguez is thinking of batting Ramirez leadoff, the manager said: “Yes. Maybe not at first because we don’t know how his leg is going to hold up or his back.”
Ramirez was placed on the disabled list on May 30 with a strained left lower back, but has also dealt with pain in his upper left leg for most of the season. It would be unfair to count on him as a run producer right away, as he was batting just .210/.306/.309 with four home runs and 17 RBI before prior on the disabled list, but we probably can’t expect him to be the same dynamic leadoff hitter he used to be, either.
To be fair, Marlins’ leadoff hitters have combined to bat just .242/.311/.377 entering tonight’s action, so it wouldn’t take much for him to be an immediate upgrade.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”