Friday, June 13, 2014

Dodgers in no rush to extend Hanley... if at all

Before this season started, it seemed like an absolute certainty that Hanley Ramirez would get a monster contract extension to stay with the Dodgers.  When he would ink it was the question.

Now, the question isn't so much if he'll ink it, it's if he'll even sign one at all.

Ten days ago Hanley told FOX Sports' John Morosi that there are no current discussions about extending his contract.  On that day, he went 0-for-3 to lower his average to .257 in 4-1 loss to the White Sox.

And there's the problem - Hanley's not hitting, and the Dodgers aren't winning.  Not exactly a recipe for rushing out and handing over millions of dollars to someone.

On the season, he's hitting .255 with a .345 OBP, 10 homers, 38 RBIs, and 8 stolen bases.  Among his fellow National League shortstops, here's how he ranks in each of those categories, respectfully: 5th (tied), 3rd, 3rd (tied), 3rd, and 4th.

Not bad, but here's how he ranked in those same numbers last season: tied for 2nd in homers, 5th in RBIs, and 6th in steals.  He did not receive enough at-bats to qualify for the batting race, but taking that away, his .345 AVG and .402 OBP would've ranked him first in both categories by a long shot.

In other words, he was really good.  He only played in roughly half of the games, and wasn't much of a running threat like in the past, but boy could he hit the ball.

Now we're in 2014, and this guy clearly isn't the same.  His power numbers aren't too bad, but the ball just isn't leaving his bat with the same amount of force and drive as in the past.  That's evident by his 5.4 WAR last season, and 1.2 this year.

And then there's the issue of his defense.  Let's just say that he's never been known as the slickest guy with the glove, but he did have a 0.3 Defensive WAR last season, so at least it was in the positive after three straight years in the negative.  This year?  Back to the negative with a -0.8.

Look, Hanley is no dummy.  He looks around his club and sees the bloated contracts from guys like Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez, and Matt Kemp, and he knows he should be right up there with them based on his past numbers.  The Dodgers lead baseball with a nearly $239 million payroll, about $30 million more than the second place Yankees.  Hanley knows he should get his.

However, I have to give the Dodgers credit for taking the cautious route with this.  The guy they see on the field right now is too banged up, too weak with the glove, and too inconsistent at the plate to warrant a lot more years and a lot more money tied up in future payrolls.  At some point, enough is enough, and it appears as if the Dodgers are at least looking out for tomorrow instead of just today for a change.

For Hanley, the biggest step isn't so much just being on the field, but being PRODUCTIVE on the field.  And that comes with playing at full health.  We all saw how much time he missed last season, but when he was healthy and playing, he was at an MVP level.  This year he's played in 63 of the team's 68 games, but looks to be about 50% of his normal health.  And it shows.

I'm sure he's trying to gut it out and show everyone that he's not just an injury prone player who can't be counted on.  But, I think it would do him a lot of good to spend some time on the DL just to make sure his nagging injuries (shoulder, ribs, hamstring) have time to heal.  Then he can come back at full strength, or at least close to it, and be the great player that he's capable of being.

I think it's safe to say that there won't be any contract extension during the season.  That's the right call to make, as Hanley needs to show he's the superstar he claims to be before the Dodgers really commit to him.  I can see this back-and-forth going well into the offseason as well.

With the All-Star break a month away and less than 100 games left in the season, the success of Hanley will be a much talked about news item the rest of the way.  I just hope it's for the positive, not the negative.

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