Dave Dombrowski has made a lot of unexpected moves since he became the Tigers' GM. Not many people envisioned that the club would trade for one of the generation's biggest stars in Miguel Cabrera, but Dombrowski pulled off what has turned out to be the theft of the century. Same goes for the Prince Fielder signing, or the subsequent trade that unloaded his gigantic contract and brought Ian Kinsler to Detroit. If those aren't recent enough for you, Dombrowski also dealt for David Price at last year's trade deadline. Not bad, huh?
So forgive us if we indulge the minute possibility that the Tigers sign Hanley Ramirez this offseason.
*2015 Steamer projection
Who is he?
One could potentially refer to him as the biggest mistake of the star-heavy Theo Epstein era in Boston. Ramirez, who originally signed with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 2000, was traded to the Florida Marlins in the winter of 2005. He had made his MLB debut earlier that year, striking out in a pair of September at-bats. Ramirez was one of four players -- along with Anibal Sanchez -- that went to Florida in exchange for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and Guillermo Mota.
The trade ultimately worked out for the Red Sox when they won the 2007 World Series, but Ramirez had already blossomed into a star before then. He hit .292/.353/.480 with 17 home runs and 51 stolen bases in 2008, narrowly winning the National League Rookie of the Year award. He followed that season up with a .948 OPS and another 51 stolen bases in 2007. After four and a half more years with the Marlins, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. Considered to be "disgruntled" during his final days in Miami, Ramirez's bat perked up once he got out west. He has hit .299/.368/.506 with 43 home runs in 1120 plate appearances in a Dodgers uniform.
Why should we care?
He may no longer be the seven-win shortstop he was in 2008 and 2009, but Ramirez is still an offensive force. He hit .345/.402/.638 with 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He accumulated 5.0 WAR and finished 8th in the NL MVP voting despite playing in just 86 games. Ramirez regressed somewhat in 2014, hitting "just" .283/.369/.448 with 13 home runs and 71 RBI. He displayed a bit more power against lefties, but hit for a nearly identical average against right and left-handed pitchers.
Ramirez isn't a stationary slugger, either. He probably won't be topping his career high of 51 stolen bases anytime soon, but he has swiped double digit bags in each of the past nine seasons. He stole 14 bases in 19 attempts and rated 1.5 runs above average on the basepaths in 2014. This isn't blazing speed, but the thought of Ramirez distracting pitchers on the bases and possibly giving J.D. Martinez more fastballs to hit is enticing.
There is also a lineup flexibility component to consider. Assuming nothing wacky happens at shortstop, Ramirez would likely be brought in to play third base and be a part-time designated hitter. Nick Castellanos would roam between third, first, and DH, or move to the outfield. Or, Miguel Cabrera could DH. Ramirez could even cover shortstop in a pinch, with Jose Iglesias serving as a whale of a defensive replacement. The point is, bringing in a guy like Ramirez in lieu of a full-time DH gives Brad Ausmus more options when setting his lineup on any given day.
Why should we stay away?
For one, Ramirez sees himself as a shortstop, and has previously balked at the idea of changing positions. The Tigers currently have two shortstops in Jose Iglesias and Eugenio Suarez, both of whom are much better defenders than Ramirez. HanRam was worth -9 defensive runs saved in 2014, the worst figure among all NL shortstops. UZR was even less favorable at -10.3, most of which was due to his poor lateral range.
There's also his contract. Ramirez is probably the best position player on the free agent market this offseason, and having the Los Angeles Dodgers involved in the bidding process is only going to cause prices to skyrocket. Ramirez is nearly 31 years old, he's already a defensive liability at shortstop, and he doesn't want to play elsewhere. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially if the bat falls off at any point. Unless the Tigers or another team offer him an absolutely gargantuan two or three year deal, it's safe to say that his contract will end up being an albatross by the time it is over.
If this deal happens, it's safe to say that the Tigers will be the Philadelphia Phillies in X number of seasons. Ramirez is an other-worldly talent, but he is going to be the poster child of why paying free agents based on past production is a foolish practice. You never know what Dave Dombrowski and Mike Ilitch will cook up -- and Ramirez might even warm up to the idea of playing another position -- but it seems safe to say that this won't happen. Let's just hope the Dodgers pony up and keep him out of the American League.