Hanley Ramirez, Come On Down!

Well, this is certainly a fun way to wake up:

The Dodgers have acquired Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from the Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi and a minor leaguer, reports Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports (on Twitter). The minor leaguer is right-hander Scott McGough according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, and Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times says that Miami is not sending any money to the Dodgers

Wow! I mean, wow. For all of the time we’ve spent talking about Ryan Dempster & Chase Headley, I don’t think any of us saw this one coming. (Now I know I should have snuck a peek at Ned Colletti’s Blackberry when I saw him on the subway last weekend.)

This is in no way a trade without a substantial amount of risk, which we’ll get to in a second, but my first impression is that I really, really like taking the chance here. We’ve been over so many times how impossible it was going to be to find a bat in this market, particularly one who can play third base and isn’t able to walk at the end of the season, and to be able to do that and get a decent lefty bullpen arm without having to give up your top prospects is just phenomenal.

That’s not to say that I dislike Eovaldi, of course, because I don’t. Obviously, forget his useless 2-8 career record, because he’s been an able fill-in at age 22, mixing in some good games along with some disasters, as you’d expect a non-elite pitcher of his age to do. Overall, he’s been about league-average, and there’s absolutely value in that, more than it sounds like; the Dodgers will miss him. But as you probably know, I’ve often felt his future lies in the bullpen due to concerns over his out pitches and strikeout ability, and the Dodgers have a ton of depth in the “decent-to-good young starter” department, from Zach Lee to Allen Webster to Chris Reed and on and on and on. I’ll miss Eovaldi, but if you’re trading a young player, trading from depth is absolutely the right way to do it.

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 think that’s why I like this deal, really. I joked yesterday that I couldn’t wait until Juan Uribe was gone so that we could stop looking at every crappy veteran player (Ryan Roberts, Josh Fields, looking at you here) and saying, “well, he’s at least better than Uribe!” as though that really meant anything. In Ramirez, you get a guy who really is better than Uribe – .246/.322/.428 with 14 homers and 14 steals isn’t outstanding, but it’s certainly an upgrade – and a guy who could potentially be something more than that, and you do it by eating money (something the new Dodger ownership does not seem troubled with) and by surrendering one good-but-not-great ready-now starter and one low level pitching prospect who I’m sure no more than five of you had heard of.

Of course, it’s not just Ramirez coming, because Randy Choate fills a need as well. The 36-year-old lefty has pitched in parts of 12 big league seasons for the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rays, and Marlins, including an absurd 85 games for Tampa in 2010. While I’ve liked Scott Elbert‘s performance just fine, he’s not your typical lefty reliever in that he actually gets righties out better than fellow southpaws. Over Choate’s career, lefties hit just .203/.277/.285 against him, and this year it’s just .150/.200/.183. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, his OPS vs lefties of .454 is the best in baseball since 2009, minimum 300 PA..  He may not be a big name, but he absolutely fills a need.

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So for the price of a decent pitching prospect, a low-level minor leaguer, and giving Miami salary relief, the Dodgers have filled two huge holes. If Ramirez doesn’t get his mojo back, then this is probably a win/win for both sides, since even a lessened Ramirez is superior to Uribe and Miami gets Eovaldi and out from Ramirez’ salary. If Hanley rebounds to be something like what he was before – and at 28, there’s still time for him to do so – then this becomes a massive steal for the Dodgers.

It’ll be a while before we know how this turns out, because it could be years until we see what Eovaldi really turns into. Today, on the morning of the deal, I can at least say something I don’t really get to say too often around here: good job, Ned. This isn’t a slam dunk deal, but with everything considered, it is one that is absolutely worth making.

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But, wait there’s so much more! Even before the Ramirez news broke, Ken Gurnick was reporting that Adam Kennedy was headed to the disabled list with a groin injury, which at least temporarily delays the “will Uribe get DFA’d?!” crew. Adding Choate probably means Shawn Tolleson goes down, though I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing Ronald Belisario come down with some imagined injury to get him a breather for two weeks. Plus, with Eovaldi gone, the Dodgers are now short a starter for this weekend, which means that we could see the return of Stephen Fife, unless… well, anyone really think Dempster takes the hill for Chicago tonight?

Finally, a story for another day or over the winter, but Cole Hamels has reportedly agreed to remain in Philadelphia long-term. That’s disappointing for the Dodgers, as they were assumed to be his most likely landing spot. SIGN ALL THE GREINKES?

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