The talent-laden Los Angeles Dodgers fell short of their ultimate goal after a strong regular season. Now the front office must make some key decisions about how to move forward. One of the biggest surrounds free-agent shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

He’s played a key role for the Dodgers over the past two-and-a-half seasons. The question has been whether Los Angeles wants to make a significant commitment to him, try to keep him on a short-term deal or move on completely.

While awaiting the decision, the rumor mill is starting to heat up. Specific interested teams have yet to surface, but CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman passed along the latest information about what may lie ahead for the infielder:

Free agent star Hanley Ramirez, one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball over the last nine seasons, is telling interested teams he is willing to play “wherever there’s a need,” a clear signal he’d switch to third base and perhaps even elsewhere on the diamond, which could potentially open up his market to several more teams.

Ramirez’s invitation to play a different position has been taken by interested teams to mean he’d even consider a corner outfield spot or perhaps even first base for desirable teams in winning situations, multiple executives with interest in Ramirez say.

Ramirez’ willingness to move away from shortstop is surprising, but it also could generate more interest from teams looking to add his bat to the lineup.

Since coming over from the Miami Marlins during the 2012 season, he’s continued to make an impact at the plate. He’s hit .299 with a .368 on-base percentage—right in line with his career averages—in 278 games to go along with 43 home runs and 31 stolen bases.

Yet, he’ll turn 31 during the offseason, and there’s cause for concern in a couple different areas.

The most important one is his health. He appeared in 157 games in 2012, which was split between the Marlins and Dodgers. He’s played only 214 of a possible 324 games (66 percent) during his two full seasons in Los Angeles, though.

It’s been rare to see him go any extended stretch of time without having to fight through the pain of a nagging ailment. Those type of issues usually don’t get better as a career goes on.

Then there’s his defense. It’s never been his strong suit, but there were some troubling signs this season to suggest it’s becoming a serious liability. His -10.3 UZR and -9 DRS (via Fangraphs) were his worst numbers in those respective stats since joining the Dodgers.

Again, defense isn’t normally something that gets better with age. Players begin to lose a step and then another. For a player who was never more than an average defender to begin with, it’s something L.A. and other potentially interested teams must take into consideration.

That doesn’t mean he won’t generate a lot of interest if the Dodgers ultimately decide to go in another direction. His offensive upside should still create a solid market. The type of offers those teams would be willing to make might be impacted, however.

For his part, Ramirez has expressed interest in staying put. Ken Gurnick of provided comments from him before the season wherein made that stance clear.

“I want to be a Dodger for life,” he said.

A lot can change during the course of a long campaign, but he reaffirmed his feelings as he headed home to Miami for the offseason:

The Dodgers may have other plans. Corey Seager, the team’s 2012 first-round pick, has been making his way through the system and hitting at every stop. He may need another full season in the minors, but his arrival is on the horizon.

That’s why a short-term deal would work best for the organization. They wouldn’t have to rush the rest of Seager‘s development but also don’t have to make a major investment in Ramirez. The other option would be a position change for the veteran.

It’s a situation that will surely generate plenty of attention in the weeks ahead.


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