GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As the 2018 season came to a close, the Indians knew they would not financially be able to keep all the players who would be entering free agency. To be able to cut down their payroll, their focus mainly became acquiring younger talent, but in recent weeks, the Tribe has found ways to bring some veterans to Spring Training through Minor League deals.
The Indians signed Hanley Ramirez to a Minor League contract on Tuesday. The deal initially was reported on Saturday.
Ramirez joins A.J. Cole, Ryan Flaherty, Matt Joyce and Alex Wilson as Major League veterans the Indians have added on Minor League contracts since the beginning of February. Ramirez, 35, is entering his 15th big league season and played in 44 games as a first baseman and designated hitter for the Red Sox last year before being released on May 30.
In addition to the team’s history of breaking camp with non-roster invitees, manager Terry Francona has been clear all spring that everyone has an equal opportunity to make the 25-man roster. So, what would the addition of Ramirez mean?
The last three seasons, Ramirez has spent all of his time at first and DH. First and foremost, the easiest option would just be penciling him in as the DH, freeing up both Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers to be on the field. Depending on what the Indians see in their outfielders this spring, whomever doesn’t win the starting first-base job between Bauers or Santana could also see some time in left field.
Another option could be platooning Ramirez and Bauers at first, given Ramirez’s numbers against left-handed pitching. In his career, he’s hit .296 with 69 home runs in 1,546 at-bats against lefties. In Bauers’ rookie season last year, he hit .176 with two homers in 91 at-bats against southpaws. Ramirez could even platoon with Bauers at DH if the team decides to make Santana the everyday first baseman.
There could be a handful of options on how Cleveland could use someone like Ramirez, but the 35-year-old, who hasn’t made a Major League appearance since April 25, will have to show what he is still able to do through the next few weeks of Spring Training.
Ramirez returned to the Red Sox as a free agent in 2014, signing a four-year, $88 million contract. Over four seasons with the club, he slashed .260/.326/.450 with 78 homers. Prior to that, he had an injury-plagued stint with the Dodgers, though he did post an .874 OPS with 43 homers over two-plus seasons following a trade from Miami.
Ramirez has a .290/.361/.487 career slash line over 14 seasons, with 281 home runs and 269 steals. A productive hitter when in the lineup throughout most of his career, he showed decline from 2017-18, posting a .739 OPS with 29 home runs.