I love Hanley Ramirez’s optimism. Or maybe it was more contrarianism. He said his goal is to win a Gold Glove at first base for the Boston Red Sox. "Definitely," Ramirez told reporters on Wednesday. "It would be nice, you know ... for you guys. We're going to work a lot. I just want to make my infielders comfortable. Catch the ball and throw it. That's the main key right now."
I'll say this: His move to first base has better odds of working out than his move to left field. And as Buster Olney wrote today, the Red Sox have other options at first base if Ramirez can't handle the position and if he also disappoints again at the plate:
The Red Sox have a ton of position-player depth, including Travis Shaw, who was Boston's primary first baseman down the stretch last year, an everyday player in August and September. The left-handed-hitting Shaw finished with a .270 average and an .813 OPS, with 23 extra-base hits in 65 games, and if Ramirez is a disaster, the Red Sox could turn over the first-base responsibilities to Shaw. Or they could think about moving somebody else over there, among their many position players, or they could have a conversation about flipping someone from their deep farm system for a first baseman. Or maybe they could look at Justin Morneau, who is the best available free-agent first baseman.
Shaw did hit well for the Red Sox, but struggled earlier in the season in Triple-A, hitting .249/.318/.356. Anyway, he's probably backup option No. 1. Super-sub Brock Holt could move there as well. The fascinating thing about all this, however, is that Ramirez has a chance to complete a unique trifecta: One of the worst fielders in the game at three different positions.
Baseball Info Solutions has been tracking defensive runs saved since 2003. Here are their worst totals at shortstop:
1. Michael Young, 2005 Rangers: minus-32 runs
2. Orlando Cabrera, 2009 A's/Twins: minus-29 runs
3. Hanley Ramirez, 2007 Marlins: minus-28 runs
3. Eduardo Nunez, 2013 Yankees: minus-28 runs
Young was a second baseman who converted to shortstop, and his metrics the first couple years at the position were terrible. He won a Gold Glove Award in 2008 ... and the Rangers moved him to third base in 2009, which says a lot about the Gold Glove voting. Cabrera also won a Gold Glove, in 2007, but by 2009 he was an aging shortstop who lasted just one more season as a full-time player. Nunez's season was an all-time disaster -- he compiled his total in just 608 innings. Anyone who watched the Yankees that year won't disagree: He had the twin talents of poor range and stone hands. Ramirez got a little better after 2007 but never had good range at shortstop.
1. Logan Morrison, 2011 Marlins: minus-26 runs
1. Adam Dunn, 2007 Reds: minus-26 runs
3. Raul Ibanez, 2011 Phillies: minus-23 runs
4. Jonny Gomes, 2010 Reds: minus-21 runs
5. Hanley Ramirez, 2015 Red Sox: minus-19 runs
5. Raul Ibanez, 2013 Mariners: minus-19 runs
5. Chris Coghlan, 2009 Marlins: minus-19 runs
No surprises here. Morrison was a first baseman shoved into left field. Dunn was a notoriously lumbering outfielder. Ibanez was old and slow in 2011 and older and slower in 2013. 2010 was Gomes' only season as a full-time regular. Coghlan was a minor league second baseman who converted to the outfield as a rookie in 2009. Then there's Ramirez, whose total is remarkable because it came in just 747 innings. On a rate basis, it's right up there with the worst of Dunn and a 2003 Dmitri Young season. (Yes, the Tigers tried Young in left field in 2003; coincidentally, they lost 119 games that year.)
Will Ramirez crack this list of bad-fielding first basemen?
1. Mike Jacobs, 2008 Marlins: minus-24 runs
2. Adam Dunn, 2009 Nationals: minus-23 runs
3. Prince Fielder, 2006 Brewers: minus-22 runs
4. Carlos Delgado, 2005 Marlins: minus-20 runs
5. Dmitri Young, 2007 Nationals: minus-19 runs
I can't say I have any memories of Jacobs playing first base for the Marlins. Dunn's total was incredible in that it came in just 540 innings. Between the outfield and first base, he was credited with minus-43 defensive runs saved that year. Oh, and the Nationals lost 103 games. Fielder was a born DH from the time he reached the majors, although he definitely tried hard at first base. I don't remember Delgado being that awful, although I don't remember him being good. And, hey, it's another Dmitri Young sighting!
The weird thing about Ramirez's defensive struggles is that this is a guy who played more than 1,000 games at shortstop and is now being compared to the worst defensive players of the past 15 years. Maybe he'll surprise us, but I wouldn't bet on it. Some guys can play defense, some can't, and Ramirez is no longer the fast, athletic player he was early in his career.