LOS ANGELES -- All signs point to Hanley Ramirez coming off the disabled list on Sunday, exactly 15 days after he landed there because of a strained muscle in his right side.
Ramirez's return is a good thing for the Dodgers' lineup, which has struggled to score runs in its past nine games. It comes with a tradeoff, however, and an appreciable one.
Ramirez's primary replacement, Miguel Rojas, couldn't come close to matching Ramirez's offensive impact. Rojas is batting .203 with a .520 OPS. Ramirez, though he hasn't been as electric as he was in 2013 at the plate, still has an .822 OPS, which is good at any position and elite for a shortstop.
The defensive metrics indicate that Ramirez is a major liability at shortstop. His defensive WAR is the worst in the majors aside from Tampa Bay's Yunel Escobar. According to Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), Rojas has been 20 runs better than Ramirez at shortstop. The Dodgers' other option at shortstop, Erisbel Arruebarrena, is also a strong defender though he hasn't played enough in the majors to establish reliable numbers.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly ruled out Ramirez playing any other position when he comes back. Third baseman Juan Uribe currently is on the DL and Ramirez took some ground balls there earlier in the week. Mattingly said the team will continue to sub Rojas or Arruebarrena in the final two innings of close games, but Ramirez's offense is simply too important to the team to leave on the bench, no matter how badly he struggles with the glove.
"When you get the kind of offense that Hanley gives you out of that position, it's a bonus," Mattingly said. "Early in the season, Hanley wasn't moving as well. As the season has gone on, he has moved better. I don't want to say it as a negative, but we're still willing to defend those last couple innings. We have a couple guys that are outstanding defensive shortstops. If you get the lead, then you try to do it."
Ramirez, 30, is a free agent after this season and it appears the Dodgers are grooming Arruebarrena as his replacement. The Dodgers signed him to a five-year, $25 million contract in spring training.