I’ll believe Hanley Ramirez is the Miami Marlins’ Opening Day third baseman when I see it.
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Nothing against the Marlins, who are saying all the right things about Ramirez’s importance to the team.
People in the industry and people close to Ramirez keep telling me that he wants to stay at shortstop.
Let’s drop the pretense: Trading Ramirez is the Marlins’ logical next move, one that could make the team even stronger.
The Marlins say they are talking with Ramirez, that he knows he’s the starting third baseman, that manager Ozzie Guillen will help convince him the move is best for the team.
And what does Ramirez say about his required adjustment after the Marlins’ signing of free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106 million contract?
Well, his only public comments since the Reyes deal came last Friday in a video interview at Disney World. The interviewer, bless her, asked Ramirez about his favorite Disney memories, but refrained from asking him about third base.
What would you expect at the happiest place on Earth?
“We’re moving ahead . . . getting some good ballplayers,” Ramirez said in a TwitVid posted by @DisneySports. “I think the front office is doing the best they can to put a good team on the field.”
Actually, I’m not sure an actual reporter could have done better. A source told me last week that while Ramirez has a strong preference to remain at short, he would handle matters with the Marlins professionally.
Some who know Ramirez, however, say the player is entrenched in his position. He doesn’t want to move to third — and never told the team that he would.
Why, then, are the Marlins putting up such a brave public front, heaping praise on Ramirez and insisting he will remain with the team?
Protecting his trade value would be one motivation.
The Marlins indicated a willingness to move Ramirez to at least one club early in the offseason, but they are not shopping him now, sources say.
Well, they need to wake up.
Ramirez, who turns 28 on Dec. 23, is too young to accept a move to third base. If anything, he has a point to prove in 2012 as he tries to recover from surgery on his left shoulder and the worst season of his career.
He isn’t Cal Ripken, who moved from shortstop to third at 36 when he no longer was agile enough to play in the middle of the diamond.
And he isn’t Alex Rodriguez, who made the switch at 28 only because he had no other way to get himself traded from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees.
No, this is a player who occasionally flashes a selfish, petulant side — and frankly cannot be trusted to graciously make way for Reyes, his fellow Dominican.
Ramirez’s trade value is lower than it once was because of his shoulder, his sub-par performance last season and the $46.5 million remaining on the final three years of his contract. Some teams also believe that he is not a winning player.
But c’mon, he’s Hanley Ramirez.
“They shouldn’t have trouble finding a home for him,” one rival executive said. “And there’s enough interest to get a decent return.”
Here are six possible fits:
Red Sox: A trade for Ramirez would bring the player and team full circle.
New Sox GM Ben Cherington and current Cubs GM Jed Hoyer were Boston’s co-GMs under club president Larry Lucchino when the Red Sox sent Ramirez, righty Anibal Sanchez and two other minor leaguers to the Marlins for righty Josh Beckett, third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Guillermo Mota on Nov. 24, 2005.
The Sox need two starting pitchers and a closer far more than a shortstop, but surely they would be tempted to reacquire Ramirez. Shortstop Marco Scutaro is eminently available, but the Marlins’ goal in any Ramirez trade would be to acquire a big bat and a starting pitcher.
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis could be the bat. The pitcher? Not so clear.
Tigers: The Tigers never bid for Reyes. They’re trying to acquire Athletics left-hander Gio Gonzalez. But a 3-4-5 of Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez would be lethal, and Jhonny Peralta could slide comfortably from shortstop to third base.
Martinez and manager Jim Leyland would be good for Ramirez (just as David Ortiz would be in Boston). The two teams might find it difficult to match up, but the Tigers have expressed a willingness to move prized right-hander Jacob Turner in the right deal, sources say.
Angels: A team that actually has the pieces.
The Angels probably don’t want to trade right-hander Ervin Santana; the addition of free-agent left-hander C.J. Wilson gives them a powerhouse front four. But a combination of Santana and one of the Angels’ starting infielders surely would entice the Marlins. Second baseman Howie Kendrick would be ideal from the Marlins’ perspective, but probably not the Angels’.
Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter were the Angels’ most frequently used 3-4 hitters last season. Ramirez and Pujols — or Pujols and Ramirez — would be a slight upgrade, don’t you think? What’s more, Pujols, Hunter and manager Mike Scioscia would be positive influences.
Nationals: A division rival, yes, but another team with enticing parts.
The Nationals are deep in young pitching, and they surely would include shortstop Ian Desmond or maybe even second baseman Danny Espinosa in a deal for Ramirez.
Think about a team built around Ramirez, right-hander Stephen Strasburg, right fielder Bryce Harper and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, none of whom is older than 28.
Giants: We know, we know — they’re putting most of their money into starting pitching, trying to sign right-handers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain long term.
Well, the Giants had the worst offense in the NL last season, and the return of catcher Buster Posey and additions of outfielders Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan won’t alter that equation dramatically.
Brandon Crawford, a .204 hitter after 196 major-league at-bats, is projected to be the Giants’ shortstop. Start a package with right-hander Ryan Vogelsong and include one of the young first basemen, Brandon Belt or Brett Pill. The Marlins could trade Gaby Sanchez or play him at third.
Mariners: In the words of one rival executive, the M’s are “starving for offense and can’t get a free agent to sign there.”
If the Mariners acquired Ramirez and then signed free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder, they wouldn’t be starving for offense anymore. In fact, a trade for Ramirez might help persuade Fielder that the M’s are viable.
Ramirez and Fielder would form a young, potent middle of the order. To get Ramirez, the Mariners would need to break up their impressive stable of young arms, maybe even include righty Michael Pineda.
And the problem is what exactly?
The Red Sox, Tigers and Angels; the Nationals, Giants and Mariners — those are just six clubs with likely interest.
My complete list includes nearly 20 teams. And trust me, many of them would jump if the Marlins made Ramirez available.
Why wait any longer?
Drop the pretense. Trade Ramirez now, before any trouble starts.