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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hanley Ramirez Becomes A Dodger, Dodgers Lose Anyway: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (12 Innings)

When I heard about the Hanley Ramirez trade, sending Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGaugh to the Marlins for Ramirez and reliever Randy Choate, I was at least skeptical. Ramirez is two years away from a good season, but continues to be paid as a star. But, as MSTI pointed out,

As for Ramirez, there’s risk here for sure. He’ll be 29 in December, and from 2007-10 he was an MVP caliber player, mixing power, on-base skills, and speed together to make for a very productive package, though he was probably always miscast as a shortstop. Last year, slowed by back and shoulder injuries, was nothing short of a disaster, as he played in just 92 games, hit .243/.333/.379, and probably got his manager fired. After an offseason dispute with the Marlins about moving to third base, he was expected to bounce back in a healthy 2012, but has hit only .246/.322/.428 and has recently missed time after a bizarre incident in which he cut himself on a fan and then didn’t take antibiotics, leading to infection. Ramirez is signed through 2014 with something like $36m remaining, which the Dodgers will apparently be paying all of.

So the concern is obvious: Ramirez is expensive, moody, and a poor defender. (Why does that sound so familiar?) Yet he’s on the right side of 30 and undeniably talented, and players like that rarely come available in the free market. Offense, particularly infield offense, is so hard to find these days that you’re going to have to take some risks in order to try to find production. The hope is that Ramirez can be a good change-of-scenery guy, and while his attitude is indeed a concern, running a solid clubhouse is one area where Don Mattingly has proven to be adept. It remains to be seen where Ramirez plays, but my guess is he’ll stay at third for now, since he’s hardly a top defensive shortstop and since Luis Cruz has been an adequate fill-in, especially with the glove.

I'm not as sanguine about Ramirez' chances overall; it seems to me that the left side of the diamond is a tough place to make a living, especially for someone who is a power threat and claims to play shortstop. Nomar Garciaparra comes to mind, particularly, and while he had a wrist injury from which he never really recovered, Ramirez is a couple years away from 30 still, which is kind of a big deal. The hope, certainly, is that way from the toxic atmosphere of south Florida he might be able to pull himself together. This strikes me as somewhat wishful thinking, but it is all we have at the moment. That, and the fact that he's better right now than Juan Uribe.

The pessimist's view is that while that latter's true, it is also the case that he has put up sub-100 OPS+ numbers for the last two years at a position normally assumed to be power-first if he is to take over the third base slot for the Dodgers. It's also worth mentioning that the new Marlins park isn't really well known enough to understand how it plays, but the early returns seem to indicate it's a slight hitter's park. However it breaks down, the Dodgers owe him $31.5M over the next two years, plus the prorated remainder of the $15M remaining on his 2012 salary.

The Dodgers scored no runs today that did not involve Ramirez, either hitting or scoring, so there is that, but the real questions lie down the road.

Update 7/26: This move reminded me substantially of Manny Ramirez's star turn in his Dodgers debut, which ended with a thud when he hit into a double play with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth. In that regard, this Ramirez did much better, but still, it seems futile at this point in his career to expect a lot. Indeed, an overall nobody-wins-this-trade vibe seems to be the sense I'm getting from the BPro review yesterday.

Dodgers recapESPN Box

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