Two years ago, the premier shortstop in the National League was Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez was the star of the Florida Marlins, slugging his way to a third straight All-Star game and another year of batting better than .300. The 2006 Rookie of the Year winner was handsomely rewarded with a six year, $70 million deal that made him the face of the franchise.
Currently, Hanley seems to be on a one-way ticket to rock bottom.
He is batting .246 this year—by far the lowest in his career—and has not won over manager Ozzie Guillen at all, acting childish and selfish. Right now, he's nursing an injury from punching a cooling fan.
However, just like with many stars who fell apart after failing to reach huge expectations, it might take a change of scenery to get Hanley refocused again.
Aside from his batting average, Hanley still has decent numbers.
His 14 home runs, 47 RBIs and 14 stolen bases is a down year for Ramirez. Still, that is 11 more home runs than any Dodger third baseman has this season.
Opening Day starter Juan Uribe is below the Mendoza line at .190. The team's other options have been too busy filling in at shortstop, second base and the outfield, forcing the Dodgers to play struggling hitters everywhere.
In 2009, Hanley batted .342 with 24 home runs and 106 RBIs, finishing second in the NL MVP race. It will take a lot of work to get him back to that level and centered again on helping the Dodgers win the NL West.
They have to beat a tough San Francisco Giants squad that currently leads the division by 1.5 games, but Hanley has enough talent to help carry the team back into October.
Los Angeles has a great history of refocusing players in the short-term. In 2008, one of the biggest head cases in baseball history ended up in the Dodgers’ lap—Manny Ramirez.
A constant source of headache for Red Sox management, Ramirez ended up propelling the Dodgers to the 2008 NLCS before testing positive for steroids.
With Manny, the Dodgers caught lightning in a bottle considering both his age and recent decline. In 2008, Manny electrified Los Angeles, batting almost .400 in two months with 17 home runs.
Manny was inspired to hustle by the appreciative fans and was rededicated by his move to a new coast.
The same thing can happen with the other Ramirez.
Hanley is 28 now and is an above average third baseman. He could also be a dynamite shortstop in case Dee Gordon never pans out.
Ramirez is making a lot of money, but if his numbers return to his career averages, he will be well worth the slew of prospects and cash it would take to get him.
The Dodgers would definitely have to part ways with their top pitching prospects. See you later Zach Lee, Chris Reed and/or Ethan Martin.
Or will it take a Kenley Jansen to lure the Marlins into making a deal?
Other than the tripod of Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier, is anyone on the Dodgers roster a valuable trade chip?
The safe bet is to say no, especially not in comparison to Hanley Ramirez.
Therefore, the Dodgers will have to risk future arms for a chance at finally having a productive bat from the hot corner. If the experiment worked, the Dodgers might have an all-star caliber third baseman for the next decade as well.
Not since Adrian Beltre have the Dodgers had a young, talented, athletic and slugging third baseman. The names of fill-ins are endless but this is a chance to end the futility of Juan Uribe, the temporariness of Jerry Hairston Jr., and the disappointment of seeing Adam Kennedy’s name in the lineup.
Ned Colletti, Stan Kasten, Kevin Walter and Magic Johnson, this is your chance to make a splash and reinvigorate Los Angeles behind this team. A team that has many of the pieces needed to make a serious playoff run and to inspire a downtrodden fan base that has loyally stuck by the last few years of struggle.
An inspired Hanley Ramirez and the successful return of injured Dodgers might make them the favorites in the National League, and the dream of the first Dodgers title since 1988 might be more tangible than anytime before in this decade.