Yesterday, Ken Gurnick posted a story at dodgers.com about Hanley Ramirez, mainly focusing on Ramirez’ intention to be healthy — he claims to be pain-free in his back and his ribs — and his still uncertain contract status, which Ramirez punctuated by saying “I want to be a Dodger for life.” Yet the most interesting piece of news about Ramirez’ future didn’t even come in that article, it came buried at the bottom of a story about the Dodgers working to sign Cuban Erisbel Arruebarruena:
The Dodgers still apparently are interested in giving a contract extension to current shortstop Hanley Ramirez, but with an understanding that he would move permanently to third base when a shortstop replacement is ready.
That’s a story unto itself, because Ramirez has long preferred to remain at shortstop rather than move to third, very vocally stating that when the Marlins forced him to move over to start 2012. Ramirez played the first eight games of his Dodger career at third, then moved back to shortstop, where he’s been ever since. Despite a surprisingly decent 2013 fielding performance, I think we all know that as he ages and slows in his 30s, shortstop isn’t the ideal position for him, and so if he signs an extension, moving him to third base makes all the sense in the world.
Except… what of Corey Seager? Perhaps it’s premature to be asking this, because Seager is all but certain to start the year at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, and even with a strong showing it’s difficult to see him reaching the bigs before a late call-up in 2015 — at best — and ideally with an eye towards being a regular big leaguer in 2016. That’s two years from now, and so much can happen between now and then. He can flame out, like Joel Guzman, or be involved in some ludicrous trade for a Giancarlo Stanton or David Price. Ramirez could depart or decline or get injured. This could be a conversation that never ends up being relevant.
Still, the thought of Ramirez at third long-term does make you start thinking about where Seager’s place in all this is, because at 6’4″, he’d be one of the biggest shortstops in history. Only Cal Ripken, Jr., managed to have any sort of career at the position, and it’s long been assumed by nearly every outside observer that Seager moving to third was an inevitability. If Ramirez is there, that presents a sizable roadblock, and while Arruebarruena may not hit enough to start shortstop, the rumored amount of money the Dodgers are prepared to give him — still unconfirmed, of course — indicates otherwise about how the Dodgers look at him.
Since Arruebarruena hasn’t even officially signed yet, let’s not worry about him for the moment. The question then becomes, do the Dodgers really see something in Seager that absolutely no one else does? I’m not even really being facetious there — from Keith Law to Ben Badler to Baseball Prospectus to everyone else, I don’t think I’ve seen a single reputable prospect report that gives him a chance of sticking at shortstop.
But then, the only opinion that matters is that of the organization, and I go back to what DeJon Watson said to our pal Christopher Jackson last July:
He’s a really good player. Grounded, just an unbelievable feel for the flow of the game. His internal clock is really advanced for his age. He’s a shortstop, he’s staying at shortstop, he’s playing it well and he’s really just stabilizing the infield defense whenever he gets in the lineup. His play has been consistent, he never wavers. Again, he’s a pretty advanced player for such a young age. We’re really excited for him.
It could be posturing to improve Seager’s perceived value, or he could really mean it. We don’t know, though there’s really not a ton of urgency to move him. (Manny Machado, for example, played exactly two minor league games at third after 203 at shortstop before being promoted to the hot corner in Baltimore. It worked out just fine.)
Either way, a Ramirez extension seems more likely than not, and the premise of him playing third base for most or all of that deal seems likely as well. Maybe the idea would be that it’s, say, a four-year deal that gets done before the season, and that Seager could manage to handle short for his first year or two in the big leagues until Ramirez is gone and then Seager makes the same transition. (Where all this ends up leaving Arruebarruena, I have no idea.) Maybe one or both is gone before then. No matter what, it’s an interesting wrinkle to the future of one of the top prospects in the system… and a wonderful problem to have.