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Should the Dodgers extend Hanley Ramirez a qualifying offer?

Should the Dodgers extend Hanley Ramirez a qualifying offer?
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez walks off the field after the Dodgers were eliminated from the postseason by the Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Monday in St. Louis. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

What to do, what to do?

Like it or not, the Dodgers' season is over and it's time to begin that off-season check list. When it comes to players, at the top of the list is Hanley Ramirez.

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He just completed the last year of his contract, which leaves the Dodgers three options: 1) re-sign him to a multiyear contract; 2) let him leave as a free agent or; 3) make him a one-year qualifying offer.

This is one of the team's key off-season decisions, and the temptation might be to wait until they've decided whether to make a general managerial change. Time, however, may not allow that luxury.

Teams have to make qualifying offers within five days after the World Series ends. The player has seven days to accept or reject it.

The advantage of making the qualifying offer is if the player turns it down and signs elsewhere, the team gets the first-round pick in the draft of whatever team he does sign with (unless it's a top-10 pick, then it's the team's next highest pick).

The qualifying offer is the same for any player and is the average of the 125 highest salaries. This year it's $15.3 million.

It seems like a no-brainer, though it might not be. Of the 22 players extended a qualifying offer the last two seasons this agreement has been in effect, not one has accepted it.

It didn't work out so well for Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, who turned down qualifying offers last fall and found no team willing to give up a first-round pick to sign them to a multiyear deal.

So you don't make the qualifying offer unless you want, or are at least willing to have, the player back. And that's the big question, do the Dodgers want Ramirez back?

His bat, sure. The two problems with Ramirez are he's a weak fielder and is injury prone. He doesn't turn 31 until December, but he seems like an old 31.

How do you give a multiyear contract to a poor defensive shortstop who is constantly battling injury? The Dodgers said they wanted to after the end of the 2013 season when he demonstrated an electric bat but have been silent about it as the season progressed and talks were put on hold.

In 2014 Ramirez hit .283 with 13 homers and 71 RBI in 449 at-bats. He had a .369 on-base and .448 slugging percentages. He also ranked last among all major-league starting shortstops in fielding percentage (.961), and those are just the balls he got to.

So let's assume he doesn't get a multiyear contract offer from the Dodgers. If they don't extend a qualifying offer and he just leaves, who plays short? There's an incredibly thin pool to pick from.

In house they have Miguel Rojas (who can't hit), Alex Guerrero (who can't field) and Erisbel Arruebarrena (another can't hit). The free agent market is so weak at shortstop J.J. Hardy agreed to a three-year extension Thursday with the Orioles for $40 million.

Washington's Asdrubal Cabrera (.241, 14, 61) can become a free agent, but that's about it. Yet why would the Dodgers want Cabrera — or any shortstop they could trade for — with a multiyear deal if they really believe prospect Corey Seager is a shortstop?

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Seager may try some third base during the current Fall League, but thus far he's been almost exclusively a shortstop during his three years in the minors. And either way, he's probably another year away from the majors; he just finished the season at double-A.

A qualifying offer to Ramirez assures the Dodgers a one-year bridge until Seager is ready, should he accept, or a first-round pick if he does not. That's assuming someone else signs him, his best future looking like designated hitter now.

Unless they just want him gone and are ready to move on. You can bet the pitching staff would like a dependable glove at short. And management can't be thrilled Ramirez stopped talking to the media for no announced reason.

The Ramirez decision will come early for the Dodgers, and it may not be as simple as some might expect.

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