Should the Padres Make a Play for Hanley Ramirez?
At first glance, this free agent market stinks. It’s the first year in memory where the Padres have owners who are willing and able to spend, and other than Yasmany Tomas, the young Cuban slugger whose 9-figure price tag might very well exceed his talent, there aren’t many names to get excited about.
One of the main positions the Padres are likely to try to fill is shortstop. Incumbent Everth Cabrera didn’t play an inning after being caught smoking dope in early September. Nothing indicates that the Padres are excited about bringing him back. But the free agent market at the position is rough. The only four who are legitimate starters are:
HanRam is certainly the cream of the crop. But at this point in his career, he should probably be playing third base instead of shortstop. And he definitely seems to like the bright lights of the big city. As a player whose drive has sometimes been questioned in the past, one wonders if a sleepy little baseball town like San Diego would keep him motivated. An underachieving, rebuilding San Diego team isn’t likely to be high on his list of places to play.
Ramirez won’t be alone in feeling that way. It will be problem signing big name free agents until the Padres get people believing they have a chance to win. Even signing Tomas might not be enough. He may not have enough cred yet to convince others like Ramirez that San Diego has a chance to win even if they do sign him to a $100 million deal. And even if Ron Fowler and company are willing to go on a hog-wild spending spree, the thought of spending $35-40 million a year for the next 5-7 years on an unproven outfielder and an injury-prone, poor-fielding shortstop like Ramirez will have the risk management experts in the front office screaming “no!”
Cabrera is a talent, and at 28, would seem a likely candidate for a long-term deal, and after playing in Cleveland for almost eight years, San Diego might look like a nicer place to live. The chance to move back to shortstop from second base might also appeal to Cabrera. But he’s had two straight down years, and with a line of .241/.307/.387 this season, the thought of shelling out $15-17 million for 4-5 years seems like another risky proposition. Some team will probably pay it, but it shouldn’t be the Padres.
Drew is coming off a season in which he hit .162 with 7 homers. It’s possible a return to the NL West would get him back into the .260 with 15 homers range, but he’s only played more than 86 games once in the last four years due to a combination of injuries and subpar hitting. He’s hardly an attractive free agent option.
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Lowrie is kind of intriguing at first glance. In 2013, he hit .290 with 15 homers and 75 RBI. The year before, he hit 16 homers in 97 games for the Astros. But that came with a .244 batting average. Then 2014 saw him miss 25 games to various injuries and his homers dropped to 6 in 136 games. Lowrie’s range at short is also quite limited. In 2013, he had the smallest range factor among everyday shortstops. So the potential for power is there, but at the cost of lousy defense at a prime defense position. The Padres would also be giving up all speed at that position, as Lowrie has stolen just six bases in seven seasons.
I don’t know what the best plan of action is. If Lowrie could be gotten for a year or two, that might be a way to start establishing some offense. Asdrubal Cabrera could offer some veteran leadership, and if his numbers got back to where they were three years ago, he’d be a solid addition to the middle of the lineup, but at the cost of defense. Drew just seems washed up.
So maybe we go all in on HanRam. And just move him over to third base when the defense just gets too painful to watch. And hope we can outbid the Yankees and every other team who decides that they need an impact player at shortstop.
This free agent market does stink. But Hanley Ramirez does not. Maybe if we throw in a camouflage bandana to wear under his helmet…