Reports: Hanley Ramirez will sign with Boston Red Sox.

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez batted .283 with 13 home runs and 71 RBIs in 2014. (Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez was not expected to return to Los Angeles in 2015. Andrew Friedman’s decision to let him sign elsewhere was going to save the Dodgers a lot of money wherever Ramirez signed, but it was not terribly difficult. The Dodgers had good reason not to give Ramirez a multi-year contract, and Ramirez did not reject the Dodgers’ qualifying offer only to sign a one-year deal somewhere else.

The Boston Red Sox had several reasons to take an interest in Ramirez. They have a designated hitter, David Ortiz, who turned 39 on Tuesday and can become a free agent after the 2015 season. They have their shortstop of the future, Xander Bogaerts, already in place. They have a glaring need for offense at third base (Boston third basemen had a .580 OPS last season, 14th in the American League).

They also draft seventh in next year’s entry draft. Only the teams that draft 1-10 are able to sign a player who rejected a qualifying offer and keep their pick, so the Red Sox had more incentive than some teams to make a big pitch.

Soon, it appears, they will have Ramirez under contract for next season and beyond:

Boston had more than just the money and the need. Ramirez and Ortiz are close, which might have helped tip the scales in Boston’s favor. Ramirez has some experience with the Red Sox, the team that signed him as a 16-year-old shortstop in 2000. Ramirez appeared in two games in a Red Sox uniform before he was traded to Miami for Josh Beckett and others on November 24, 2005. Nine years later, Ramirez might officially be back.

The Dodgers traded for Ramirez on July 25, 2012, along with pitcher Randy Choate, in exchange for Nathan Eovaldi and minor leaguer Scott McGough. His raw numbers at the plate in the two and a half seasons that followed were as much as the Dodgers could have hoped for: A .299/.368/.506 slash line, 43 home runs and 172 RBIs in 278 games. Only four National League hitters had a higher OPS than Ramirez the last two seasons.

However, along with nagging injuries (he missed 110 games the last two seasons) the Dodgers had to put up with Ramirez’s declining defense. According to UZR, only two NL shortstops were worse during the same 2013-14 time frame. We don’t know how hard the Dodgers tried to move Ramirez to a different position — if they did at all — but they were forced to accept Ramirez’s subpar defense as a trade-off for his stellar bat. By the end of Ramirez’s tenure, he had not played shortstop in the ninth inning of a game the Dodgers were winning for more than a month. Miguel Rojas filled that role late in the 2014 season.

So who will be the Dodgers’ Opening Day shortstop in 2015? Good question. Along with the impending trade of an outfielder, this might the hottest topic within the crowded front office in Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers have been linked to Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez in trade rumors. They also have in-house candidates in Rojas, Erisbel Arruebarrena and Alex Guerrero who can man the position until prospect Corey Seager is deemed ready.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.