If reports that the Red Sox are signing both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval prove accurate the assumption is that Boston will be moving Ramirez to the outfield after nearly 10,000 career innings at shortstop.
Shifting a 30-year-old career-long shortstop to the outfield is certainly a rare occurrence and may seem strange at first glance, but in Ramirez’s case it’s perhaps not that crazy.
Ramirez has always hit like a corner outfielder, which is what made him so valuable at shortstop. However, now that most people think he can no longer handle shortstop defensively on a regular basis the idea of taking a defensive hit to keep his bat in the lineup at an up-the-middle position is less appealing. In other words, at shortstop his glove is now canceling out too much of his bat.
And once that happens, why not just move the corner outfield-hitting shortstop to an outfield corner? During the past three seasons Ramirez hit .285 with a .356 on-base percentage and .486 slugging percentage in 371 games for an .842 OPS that would have ranked 12th among all MLB outfielders during that time, sandwiched in between Matt Kemp and Nelson Cruz.
In other words, simply duplicating his 2012-2014 production would make him one of the 10-15 best-hitting outfielders in baseball. And if the Red Sox signed one of the dozen best-hitting outfielders to a $90 million deal, it probably wouldn’t seem odd at all. Ramirez’s overall value as an outfielder would depend largely on his defense, which is awfully tough to predict, but given some of the unathletic, weak-armed left fielders the Red Sox have trotted out it’s hard to imagine a career-long middle infielder with 261 career steals being a total disaster out there.
Boston clearing its logjam of outfielders after adding Ramirez to the already crowded mix is another issue, but “Hanley Ramirez, corner outfielder” can be a damn good player.