Fish Stripes is bringing you daily articles as part of the All-Time Marlins Countdown leading up to 2021 Opening Day.
For the final time, I am “pinch-hitting” for the Fish Stripes staffers who ordinarily handle these articles.
By leaps and bounds, Hanley Ramírez is the most talented infielder that the Marlins organization has ever had.
Florida acquired Ramírez after the frustrating 2005 season. A pair of Fish Stripes Marlins Hall of Famers, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, were shipped to the Red Sox along with Guillermo Mota in exchange for a four-player prospect package: Jesús Delgado, Harvey García and Aníbal Sánchez plus the soon-to-be 22-year-old shortstop as the centerpiece.
Hanley had been somewhat underwhelming at Double-A Portland the prior year (.271/.335/.385, 6 HR in 122 G). He appeared in only two big league games for the then-reigning World Series champions, entering off the bench in the late innings of September blowouts.
The Marlins’ incumbent at shortstop, Álex González, departed via free agency, ironically signing with the Sox. With all due respect to González, who had just posted the highest on-base percentage of his career in ‘05, his production would not be missed.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Ramírez’s first five Marlins seasons put him on a Cooperstown trajectory. From 2006-2010, he averaged 25 home runs and 39 stolen bases per year at a premium defensive position, always topping a .300 batting average with the exception of his NL Rookie of the Year campaign (.292).
Highest Career Offensive Wins Above Replacement for MLB SS thru Age-26 Season
|5||Cal Ripken Jr.||32.3||1981-1987|
Hanley’s shoulder issues began in July 2007 when he suffered a partial dislocation of the left shoulder. He missed only four games and avoided the disabled list, and he continued to be perform at such a fantastic level the rest of that summer and through the first quarter of ‘08 that ownership inked him to a six-year, $70 million contract extension, the largest in franchise history up to that point.
However, Ramírez’s competitiveness ultimately got the best of his. He battled more shoulder discomfort in 2010 which sapped his power (career-low 51 XBH and .175 ISO). This diving catch attempt made him miss the final two months of the 2011 season, eventually requiring surgery.
When Ramírez returned to action in 2012, he had a new ballpark to call home but lost both the shortstop job and his highest-paid player status to José Reyes. The massive free agent signing shifted him over to third base. If then-Marlins president David Samson is to be believed, these two were not particularly fond of one another.
Although Ramírez was durable for the first four months of Marlins Park’s opening season, his numbers paled in comparison to his prime (.246/.322/.428, 105 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR in 93 G). Collectively, the Fish did well through the first one-third of their schedule (31-23 record), then plummeted by losing 17 of 20 games. Even with an extra wild card spot newly added to the National League, they were obvious non-contenders entering late July.
The 28-year-old Ramírez on a back-loaded contract only carried moderate surplus value. The Marlins bundled him with LOOGY Randy Choate in a trade with the Dodgers, receiving young pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough.
Hanley returned to his native shortstop in L.A. and stayed there through the 2014 season. Then he signed with the Red Sox who used him at left field/first base/designated hitter. Those clubs gave him four trips to the postseason where he mashed .380/.450/.577 in 20 games. However, he never got to experience a World Series. As of this writing, he’s about two full years removed from his last MLB opportunity with Cleveland (released April 22, 2019). That stint wasn’t a total waste—he became a United States citizen.
Ramírez still hasn’t officially retired. Once he does, hopefully the Marlins welcome back their charismatic Dominican star with open arms for alumni events.