As much as it pains me to think of Hanley Ramirez in the arms of another team, I can’t stop thinking that he would be more productive in a different city. It’s that I-can’t-believe-she-broke-up-with-me-punch-in-the-stomach feeling. I know it’s probably for the best, and that Hanley will be happier and more productive wearing a different uniform. He’ll probably lose some weight and also do all the charming things Marlins fans found so endearing in the beginning of our relationship, like hustling, getting clutch hits, stealing bases and, most importantly, keeping his mouth shut. Hanley, you had us at Rookie of the Year.
Like all relationships, you have to assess the pros and cons in order to determine long-term viability, and the positives should clearly outweigh the negatives. Right now, I’m not seeing an abundance of positives with Hanley simply because he doesn’t fit in Florida any more. When he burst onto the scene with his ROY performance in 2006, it was game on. Florida fans loved him and thought they had a long-term superstar in their midst. But a funny thing happened on the way to a miserable 2011: More and more, Hanley was forced to become the go-to leadership guy, a role he has proven over the last few seasons that he is not comfortable in.
Now, it’s anybody’s guess as to whose team this is. Logan Morrison’s? Mike Stanton’s? Gaby Sanchez’? Each is a little green to be considered an on-field leader, yet all three could one day take on that mantle and, hopefully, lead the Fish to World Series nirvana. But leadership is earned vs. being handed out like a new box of batting gloves. And right now, the Marlins don’t have an on-field leader. Based on his past, Ramirez is much better suited being second fiddle or third banana on a team vs. the spotlight guy. It’s just not his thing, and Marlins management and fans alike have thrust this mightily talented player into a position he’s just not very good at – being the guy.
The monumental challenge facing Florida management, though, would be finding a taker for Ramirez and his escalating salary, which doesn’t match what appears, at least for this season, to be declining performance. The best fit for Ramirez would be with a team that can afford his salary and one where he would feel no pressure.
A perfect fit for Hanley, not that it’s going to happen, is the New York Yankees. Sure it’s in the cauldron of media pressure, but surrounded by so much talent, Hanley would be under less pressure in the Big Apple than he is in the Big Swelter. Going to New York may not be feasible at this point due to captain Derek Jeter currently occupying the position, but Hanley wouldn’t be a Fish out of water with all the egos up north – in fact, he’d fit right in. Heck, he may find it humbling to be surrounded by so much talent that he’d actually work harder. In Florida, he doesn’t have to do much with his supreme talent – he can even be lazy – and he’s still the best player talent-wise. In New York, he couldn’t just show up and be the superstar.
I tweeted Buster Olney recently about the prospect of moving Hanley by the trade deadline and the response was simple: “The more appropriate question on Hanley Ramirez: Would anyone give up anything decent for him, given money owed and poor year?”
So what does management do with a player who is owed $11 million this season and another $46 million over the next three seasons if no one is interested in taking on that salary or trading top prospects in return? Owner Jeffrey Loria has only one possible play and that’s to eat a portion of Hanley’s salary in order to move him – something fans in Florida know is as likely to happen as the Cubs winning the World Series. Just ain’t gonna happen.
So what does it all mean? Hanley and his ways will most likely stay put and continue to rack up mediocre numbers until his contract is up. The best possible scenario for the Marlins would be to see Ramirez go on a hitting rampage over the next two months to improve his marketability heading into the offseason. The Marlins would be best served in the offseason by signing a stud pitcher and outfield bat and acquiring a serviceable shortstop. With Josh Johnson’s season in doubt – and career, for that matter given the pattern of injuries – the Fish would be wise to find a suitable complement/replacement for Johnson, just in case.
With that in mind, Hanley has a better chance to put his stamp on the Marlins future if he is traded vs. anything he could do on the field. Next season is a significant one for the Marlins heading into the new ballpark. Having a solid pitching staff will be more important to the long-term success of the franchise than having a former and fading All-Star at shortstop.