What could a Hanley Ramirez extension look like?

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Hanley Ramirez is in extension talks with the Dodgers, though it’s nothing close to finished, according to Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes.

But more importantly, what might this extension look like?

Hanley Ramirez said recently that he has had ongoing extension talks with the Dodgers, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com reports (Spanish language link). The 29-year-old is under contract for next year, but his impressive output in an injury-shortened 2013 makes him a definite extension target for Los Angeles.

Reiterating once again that he hopes to stay with the Dodgers for the rest of his career, Ramirez said that he believes a new deal could be reached this winter. “We are negotiating something, but we are going step by step,” he said (in Spanish). Ramirez declined to discuss the salary and length under consideration, but it is safe to say that the shortstop/third baseman is in line for quite a substantial contract when his current six-year, $70MM pact expires.

Besides Clayton Kershaw, Hanley is the other elite talent on the Dodgers that becomes a free agent after 2014, so the team is wise to look to secure him going forward. Granted, unlike Kershaw, he’s still not proven that he can be both healthy and effective over a full season since arguably as far back as 2009. Plus, he’ll probably have to be moved off shortstop later on. Oddly enough though, those risks are the exact reasons I think they should try to get an extension done sooner than later.

That’s not to say it would be cheap or painless, though, as I think the Dodgers are looking at between 5 Y/$100MM ($20MM AAV) and 6 Y/$138MM ($23MM AAV), and I would lean towards the latter. Like most free agent deals in this market, I think that might sound ridiculous to most. But something to consider is that a 32-year-old Jhonny Peralta can get ~$13 million annually for four years coming off a steroid suspension and alternating seasons of effectiveness. Steamer projects Peralta at 2.7 WAR in 2014.

In contrast, Hanley put up a .345/.402/.638/1.040 in 2013 and has had increasing effectiveness the further he has gotten away from labrum surgery in 2011, to the point where it looks like he’s back to 2009 form. Even with his horrible 2011, average 2012, and general injury proneness factored in, Hanley’s still projected at 4.2 WAR by Steamer. Better yet, the upside is obviously the 7.0-7.5 win peak, since he’s already achieved that before and was on pace in 2013.

But regardless of all that positive, why not wait, right? The Dodgers can afford to re-sign him after the season if they want, and that way they can see if he can truly get healthy enough to play. The Dodgers have the advantage of not having to take the risks that other teams do in regards to extending their stars.

I believed that myself before I started looking at the situation intently, because there’s nothing incorrect about that theory. I get that logic. However, the money isn’t LITERALLY unlimited and they don’t want to be saddled with the 50 most expensive contracts in baseball history. But more to the point, there’s not a ton to be gained from waiting, in my estimation.

The primary issues with waiting are that the Dodgers don’t want to sign guys past 36, according to Stan Kasten, and Kasten has also said he wants the team to become less reliant on payroll in the long term. Additionally, they already have by far the most long-term commitments in the league, and while this would be another, it’s nothing compared to the price tag they’d have to pay if Hanley puts up a .300/30 type of campaign in 2014. That would probably put him close to Robinson Cano territory because of his earlier pedigree, and Cano’s currently demanding 10 years going into his age 31 season at ~$30 million per … and he might be worth it.

Therefore, I’ve found it in the team’s best interest to lock Hanley up before this year, because while it may come with a bit more risk, it could potentially save a lot of years and a ton of cash while sparing the Dodgers his late-30s decline. And unless he has a career-ending injury in 2014, he’s the best player the Dodgers (and everybody else) are going to find on the market (seriously, look at that FA list), so they’re going to want him back in 2015 and beyond, regardless. An extension thus seems like a sensible risk to take on a player with elite upside for a team that wants to build around the stability of star players.

About Chad Moriyama

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