Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier made the Los Angeles Dodgers fly high in the first few weeks of the 2012 season. Per Baseball-Reference.com, they combined to hit 19 home runs and drive in 60 runs through May 13 for a Dodgers team that quickly established itself as the most surprising team in baseball.
It's been a struggle for the Dodgers ever since, in large part because Kemp and Ethier have had trouble getting in the lineup at the same time. Kemp was waylaid twice by hamstring injuries, and Ethier landed on the DL with a rib cage injury.
The good news, according to the Los Angeles Times, is that both Kemp and Ethier are going to be back for the start of the second half. That's the Dodgers' cue to start running away with the NL West again like they were earlier in the season.
But I doubt anybody thinks it's going to be that easy. General manager Ned Colletti has improvements to make, and one of the Dodgers' most glaring holes is at the hot corner.
To this end, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports has reported that Colletti has two specific third basemen in mind:
The Ramirez revelation is the interesting part, as it implies that the Dodgers are a) expecting the Brewers to sell and b) think they'll be open to selling a third baseman that they just signed to a three-year contract. There's not any pressure on them to deal Ramirez like there is for them to deal free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke.
According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin "seems" interested in seeing how the Brewers do in the weeks immediately following the All-Star break before he does anything drastic. He's in no hurry to give up on the season.
But things haven't looked good for the Brewers all season, and they open the second half with three-game series against the top teams in the NL Central: Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati. If they stumble in these games, the time for them to sell will arrive very soon.
And that's when Melvin should listen to what Colletti has to offer for Ramirez. He doesn't have to deal Ramirez seeing as how the 34-year-old veteran is under contract for two more seasons, but dealing him is a major opportunity to add to Milwaukee's farm system.
Ramirez has trade value for two reasons.
The first is exactly because he's under contract for two more seasons. Melvin wouldn't be able to ask for much if Ramirez was going to be a rental, but the extra two years on Ramirez's contract give Melvin every excuse to up his asking price.
Secondly, Ramirez has trade value because he's one of the most consistent producers at the hot corner in Major League Baseball. He's hit at least 25 home runs and driven in at least 80 runs in seven of the past eight seasons.
So far in 2012, Ramirez has hit 10 home runs and driven in 52 runs while hitting in a Brewers lineup that doesn't offer a lot of protection. He should be slowing down as a producer at his age, but he just keeps doing his thing.
And this, of course, is what's intriguing as far as the Dodgers are concerned. They could use a rock-solid producer at the hot corner as much as any team in Major League Baseball.
Juan Uribe can't be that guy. He's been a major bust in his two years in Los Angeles, and this year he's hitting .194/.250/.271 with a single home run. Jerry Hairston, Jr. has put together an .831 OPS when he's filled in at the hot corner, according to Baseball-Reference.com, but his value to the Dodgers is in his versatility. Instead of tying him to a single position, they need to be able to keep moving Hairston around.
So it's either Uribe or somebody else, and there's no question that "somebody else" is the better option of the two.
Headley would be a good fit, but dealing for him would be tricky because it would require the Dodgers to send young talent to a division rival just so they can get a player who is in the middle of the first really good year of his career. They'd be banking on there being more production to come, which would be a gamble.
There's less of a gamble where Ramirez is concerned because of how consistent he's been over the past decade. The Dodgers would have to give up a similar package of prospects to get him as they would to get Headley, but they wouldn't be dealing those prospects within the division.
Ramirez's three-year contract for the Brewers is worth a total of $36 million, and the Brewers would likely ask the Dodgers to pick up the entire remaining tab. This, however, is not a big hurdle. The Dodgers' new ownership has a ton of money to spend, and it was just last month that team president Stan Kasten told the Los Angeles Times that the club isn't afraid to spend big.
Which third base target is better for the Dodgers?
I promise you we'll explore everything," he said. "Look, as candid as we can be, we're the Dodgers. We're supposed to be big. We intend to be big. Will we look at big things? You bet.
So the money isn't an issue, nor is Ramirez's production. The only significant hurdle is the package of prospects that the Dodgers would have to give up to convince the Brewers to trade Ramirez. It doesn't help that the Dodgers aren't sitting on an elite farm system.
They do have plenty of young pitching, though, and that's something that should appeal to the Brewers. They have some good young pitchers in their farm system, but more young pitching is never a bad thing. They will have further incentive to acquire some if Greinke is traded or chooses not to re-sign.
This is a deal that can happen. And for the Dodgers, there's no better way to solve their third base woes.
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