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Red Sox designate Hanley Ramirez for assignment

The Red Sox part ways with yet another highly-paid free agent from the Ben Cherington era.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox Photo by Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox are designating first baseman/DH Hanley Ramirez for assignment, as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier first reported Friday morning:

The club confirmed the move later on Friday morning.

Ramirez, 34, is a three-time All-Star, a former National League Rookie of the Year Award winner, and was once considered one of the most dominant offensive players in the game. But a defensive regression — he’s gone from shortstop to third base to left field to first base to DH who plays first base occasionally — as well as a lack of consistency at the plate has spelled his demise.

Ramirez was expected to be Boston’s primary DH for a large chunk of the offseason, but after J.D. Martinez signed during spring training that role was no longer available to him. New manager Alex Cora gave him a legitimate shot to be the club’s everyday No. 3 hitter and first baseman, but he didn’t exactly seize the opportunity.

While Ramirez got off to a hot start, hitting .330/.400/.474 in 110 plate appearances through the end of April, he had struggled in May, hitting just .163/.200/.300 over 85 PAs and going 0 for his last 21. It didn’t help his case that Mitch Moreland, re-signed to be Boston’s everyday first baseman long before the Martinez signing became an actuality, hit .311/.390/.612 with seven homers in 118 plate appearances and forced his way into regular playing time at first.

While Ramirez’s numbers for the season are still solid, the Red Sox had a tough decision forced upon them with the return of second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Already at a 12-man pitching staff with time shares at catcher (Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez) and first base (Ramirez and Moreland), Boston was basically faced with dumping a bench player among the always-reliable Eduardo Nunez, red-hot Brock Holt, or intriguing utility man Blake Swihart — or doing the unexpected and letting Ramirez go. With the 26-year-old Swihart posting a miserable .133/.212/.167 slash line thus far and having yet to start a game in the field despite being on the roster the whole season, it seemed like he was the most logical option to be let go. Clearly the Red Sox had other plans.

It’s extremely unlikely that Ramirez will be traded, as teams know that they can just wait for him to clear waivers and pay him the pro-rated major-league minimum while the Red Sox pay the rest of his salary. As if that wasn’t enough motivation, under the terms of his current contract, his 2019 option vests with 1,050 plate appearances between 2017-18. He already has 748, so even if a team traded for him and utilized him in a part-time role, they’d likely end up on the hook for his $22 million salary in 2019. With that said, it seems probable that at least one if not multiple teams will have interest in Ramirez once he clears release waivers.

As if it wasn’t considered one already, the Ramirez move makes the Red Sox’s 2014-15 offseason look like an absolute disaster. With then-GM Ben Cherington at the helm, Boston signed Pablo Sandoval to a five-year, $95 million deal and Ramirez to a four-year, $88 million pact. They designated Sandoval for assignment last summer, eating the final $49.8 million remaining on the deal. Obviously, they’ve now chosen to DFA Ramirez as well. Those moves, plus similar decisions to bail on high-priced players like Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig, make it quite clear why Dave Dombrowski is now the man heading Boston’s baseball operations department rather than Cherington.