Source: Red Sox deal for Hanley Ramirez 'could come together quickly'

November 23, 2014 - 12:57 pm

According to an industry source, the Red Sox are in advanced conversations with free agent Hanley Ramirez, with the possibility that a deal "could come together quickly." As of this afternoon, the source said, there was not an agreement between the sides, but the potential for a deal is real. At this point, what is not clear is whether talks with Ramirez are as a third base fallback should free agent Pablo Sandoval sign with one of his other suitors (the Giants or Padres), or if the pursuit of Ramirez might be in conjunction with the pursuit of Sandoval, with Ramirez moving to left field and Sandoval at third base. If the Sox did pursue Ramirez, it could be part of yet another domino, with the possibility of trading Yoenis Cespedes increasing. Ramirez is arguably the best pure hitter available this year in free agency. One evaluator recently called him the "closest right-handed hitter to Manny I have seen," someone who is an impact bat regardless of who's on the mound. In 2014, Ramirez nearly matched Sandoval's numbers against righties (he had a .283/.362/.439 line, compared to Sandoval's .317/.363/.461) while proving even more impactful against lefties (.282/.393/.476). For his career, Ramirez has a higher OBP and roughly the same slugging percentage against righties as Sandoval and a massive advantage against lefties. However, the Sox viewed Sandoval as their priority over Ramirez for a number of reasons, including age (Sandoval is 28; Ramirez turns 31 this winter), defense (Sandoval is an above-average defensive third baseman; Ramirez has been viewed as one of the worst defensive shortstops in the big leagues, and struggled in a half-season at third base with the Marlins), durability (Ramirez has averaged 121 games a year over the last five seasons, Sandoval 135) and makeup (Sandoval is viewed as a strong clubhouse presence, Ramirez was a polarizing figure with the Marlins prior to his trade to the Dodgers). Still, the fact that Sandoval became the primary target did not eliminate the possibility of interest in Ramirez, particularly given that the 30-year-old, after spending almost all of his career at shortstop, has signaled a willingness in free agency to move to third base or the outfield. News of the potential for the Sox to pursue Ramirez and Sandoval was first reported by Jon Heyman of ANNOTATION: Both Christopher Meola (via twitter) and Jake Wesley (via twitter) reported prior to either this or Heyman's report that a Ramirez deal to return to the Red Sox was all but finalized, with Wesley reporting that the length and salaries had already been determined. Those reports, however, could not be confirmed. Indeed, as of Sunday evening (when this report was published), industry sources said that there was not yet an agreement.