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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

December 7, 2011 at 3:22 PM

Hanley Ramirez situation bears watching for Mariners

hanley.jpg

(Photo by Associated Press)

One byproduct of the Twitter age is a torrent of information to sort through, and sometimes the Tweets and blogs move faster than the story, especially at an event like the winter meetings. Such is the case with Hanley Ramirez, who has been the focus of intense scrutiny ever since news broke that the recklessly profligate Miami Marlins (as opposed to their former incarnation as the recklessly stingy Florida Marlins) were going to sign Jose Reyes.

Reyes plays shortstop, the same position that Ramirez has manned at superstar level for the Marlins for the past several years (though he didn’t play like a superstar in 2011). Tweets started flying almost immediately about Ramirez’s discontent with the Marlins’ intentions to move him to third base. Speculation flew about whether he had, or would, demand a trade (by all accounts, he hasn’t).

But then today, Buster Olney of ESPN — a reporter whom I respect as much as anyone in the business, tweeted that Ramirez’s agent had asked the Marlins to restructure his contract, which so irked the Marlins, Olney wrote, that they would now look to trade Ramirez.

To which Ken Rosenthal of Fox — another reporter I regard highly — tweeted shortly after: “#Marlins prez Samson: Hanley did not ask for contract to be restructured. Hanley not getting traded. Hanley critical part of team.”

So Ramirez may or may not be on the trade block. UPDATE 5:53 P.M.: Here are stronger words from team president David Samson refuting Olney’s report). I’m leaning heavily to “not”, because I think the Marlins’ grand plan all along has been to overwhelm their fans with their sheer accumulation of talent (and they’re off to a very impressive start, even if they didn’t land Albert Pujols). Ramirez is a big part of that plan — and I believe they think new manager Ozzie Guillen will be able to smooth things over with Ramirez in the end. Ozzie (whose decision to leave the White Sox for the Marlins is becoming more explainable by the day, based on the paths of the two teams) certainly said all the right things today while meeting with the media.

The Mariners, who are still in the Prince Fielder picture (and ready to “make strong effort to sign” him, according to knowledgeable sources cited in a brand-new tweet from Fox’s Jon Morosi (yup, respect him, too — these guys are all good), will no doubt have an internal discussion about Ramirez if the Marlins get fed up enough to trade him (or Ramirez gets fed up enough to force them to do so). I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t already done so. It’s called due dilegence.

There’s a lot to like, obviously. Just look at his portfolio — a batting title (.342), and single-season highs of 33 homers, 51 steals and a .954 OPS. He’s also just 27 (the same age as Fielder) and is locked up for three more years at a price tag that, for a superstar, is quite reasonable: $15 million in 2012, $15.5 million in 2013, $16 million in 2014. In other words, about $10 million a year cheaper than Fielder would likely be.

Yes, the Mariners have a shortstop already, Brendan Ryan, who is a quality glove man. Eric Wedge loves him, and why not? He’s a great guy to have on a team. You could keep Ryan around as a utility guy if you get Ramirez, maybe a third-base candidate. Of greater concern is last year’s major dropoff by Ramirez to .243/.333/.379, which included insinuations he reported to camp overweight. He also had a left shoulder injury that landed him on the DL in August and ended his season in early September. He underwent surgery on Sept. 16. And, of course, there have also been ongoing issues with his attitude and hustle throughout his career.

But when he’s healthy, in shape, and his mind is right, Ramirez is one of the top five players in the league. Olney wrote today: “If Ramirez wanted to be traded, the Marlins probably couldn’t get lot for him, because of his price tag and the growing questions about his play.” I’m not so sure about that. A lot of teams would jump into the bidding if the Marlins shopped Ramirez — but I’ll bet the Mariners could get it done if they included Michael Pineda as the centerpiece of an offer. For the Hanley Ramirez of 2006 through 2010, it might be worth it. For the Hanley Ramirez of 2011, it would be an overpay.

Tough call, and right now, purely hypothetical. It’s something to ponder as the Hanley Ramirez situation sorts itself out.

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