Free Agency Ideas…Getting Better with Age?

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This Dodgers FA Shortstop could make a big splash for the Padres. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Hanley Ramirez

It wasn’t that long ago when Hanley Ramirez was considered one of the absolute best players in baseball. A shortstop with speed, power, defense, and hit for average? Sign me up. Move over Alex Rodriguez. Okay, so maybe it was a few years ago, but the man can still play baseball when he is healthy. In 2014 he played in 128 games, hit 14 home runs, batted .283 and drove in 71 runs. In 2013 he hit twenty.

The biggest concern with him is how much he will demand for his payday. On the Dodgers, he fit in with several other high-priced players on a team with a payroll nearly three times what the Padres can afford. On the Padres, we have seen with Carlos Quentin and Josh Johnson how one or two bad free agent signings can cripple the entire team. What if the Padres get Hanley, he gets hurt, and only plays in less than 80 games like he has done in 2013 and 2011? That would be devastating, as certainly Ramirez is expected to consume about 10% of the Padres payroll.

The upside though is pretty tremendous. He can play third or short, both spots the Padres have questions marks on going into 2015. At shortstop and healthy, he would immediately be the focal point for the offense. When was the last time the Padres had a shortstop you were afraid of offensively? Khalil Greene? And even with Greene, you knew those 15 homers were going to be tempered by a .240 batting average.

Right now at third base, the Padres have penciled in Yangervis Solarte and Everth Cabrera / Alexi Amarista at shortstop. Off the field happenings may automatically disqualify Cabrera before the season even begins, and none of those options are proven winning solutions. Let’s say though that Everth does play up to the level he did in 2013. Let’s say they get Hanley Ramirez and plug him in at third base. Now, we can use Solarte to plug in the games when either Cabby or Hanley need an injury reprieve.

In the end, going for Hanley would be a big gamble that I do not think the Padres should make. He is over 30, and will likely be priced simply out of the Padres payroll. If they do splurge and make him the highest paid player on the team – if not franchise history – he either would only disappoint with his on-field performance or leave the team with no flexibility to make any other needed moves if they do find themselves in contention come July.