Why Cleveland’s José Ramirez Could Be Stealthy Red Sox Infield Option

Ramírez has one of the best contracts in baseball right now

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February 22, 2022

José Ramírez, on the surface, doesn’t seem like a great fit for the Red Sox. That Boston hasn’t been connected to the All-Star third baseman pretty much reinforces that notion.

Ramirez starting the season on the Red Sox roster feels like a significant long shot, but an interesting tidbit in the latest column from ESPN’s Buster Olney certainly stood out for Boston observers and fans.

“As clubs looking for infielders (like the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Astros) weigh their options, they’ll at least pose the appropriate questions about Ramirez,” Olney wrote Tuesday in a story about potential post-lockout MLB activity.

Ramírez has (quietly?) become one of the most consistent players in baseball. The Cleveland Guardians infielder has been worth 32.7 wins above replacement (Fangraphs) dating back to the start of the 2016 season. Only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts have added more value over that time. He finished no worse than third in MVP voting in the three full seasons he played between 2017 and 2020, though he did see a drop-off in 2021 — he finished sixth in MVP voting.

The contract, as Olney notes, makes Ramírez an even more attractive option. The switch-hitter is signed through 2023 (with a club option for the final season) and will make $26 million total over those two years. Fangraphs ranked Ramírez 26th overall on its trade value list last summer.

So, yeah, if the Guardians make him available, there should be no shortage of interest. Whether he’s an optimal fit for the Red Sox, that’s up for debate. Boston already has a foundational third baseman in Rafael Devers. Ramírez does have experience playing multiple positions, including second base, left field and even shortstop, but he’s been stapled to the hot corner since 2017.

The Red Sox theoretically could go all-in on him with the idea of playing Ramírez at second base where he’d represent a significant offensive upgrade over Christian Arroyo. Another idea is to move Devers across the diamond to first base, but that blocks top prospect Triston Casas (assuming he’s not part of a blockbuster to acquire Ramírez).

Trade discussions for Ramírez would be fascinating. Clearly, he’s an elite player and his contract is team-friendly for two more seasons. He’s 29, which certainly isn’t old, but he does have a lot of tread on the tires. He debuted way back in 2013, and he’s played at least 152 games in four of his full big league seasons. There are concerns about how he’d hold up for the long term, but a team like the Red Sox conceivably could strike now with the hopes of squeezing the most out of Ramírez’s valuable prime.

“There?s a question to how long the body holds up, but if you?re acquiring Ramírez, you?re likely only interested through age-30 anyway,” an executive told Fangraphs for the trade value story.

The Red Sox just reached the American League Championship Series. Even if they’re slightly early with their on-the-fly rebuild, reaching the doorstep of the World Series is not a fluke. Boston is trending in the right direction and acquiring a player like Ramírez could put the club over the top.

This probably is nothing more than a fun thought exercise, though. As Olney notes, there’s plenty of reason for Cleveland to keep their star and hope he’s part of the next (first?) great Guardians team. It’s also an imperfect fit for the Red Sox as they’re currently constituted.

All of that being said, though, it’s the exact type of big-picture thinking the club has afforded itself with in recent success at all levels of the organization.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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