The Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off what could end up being the greatest trade in the franchise's storied history, acquiring three-time All-Star third baseman Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins late Tuesday night.
The Dodgers will also receive left-handed relief pitcher Randy Choate in exchange for right-handed pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough.
The trade serves as final confirmation that the Marlins have given up on their plans to be a contender in 2012, but it brings them back some great young talent and added salary relief.
Dodgers fans have to be ecstatic with this acquisition for a variety of reasons, the greatest of which is the acquisition of Ramirez himself. He’s struggled to regain his 2009 form, but he is exactly the sort of impact bat needed to complement Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the middle of the Los Angeles lineup.
Ramirez is a career .388 career hitter in 18 games at Dodgers stadium, and as I first pointed out a month ago, he could really benefit from a change in scenery. He will no doubt embrace the more laid-back managerial approach of Don Mattingly, as the in-your-face style of Ozzie Guillen never got through to Ramirez.
In addition to acquiring his limitless talent, the move addresses a number of positional needs for the Dodgers.
He can fill in immediately at shortstop—his natural position—while the injured Dee Gordon continues to recover from surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right thumb.
Once Gordon returns, Ramirez can slide over to third base to replace the ineffective Juan Uribe, who’s hit just .190 with two home runs and 17 RBI in 53 games this year. Uribe may be a valuable utility player for Los Angeles—the bench being another team weakness—but he was absolutely disastrous as a starter.
The acquisition of Choate was significant as well since it gives the Dodgers a left-handed relief pitcher to bolster the bullpen, something they’ve needed badly.
Perhaps just as important as the acquisitions of Ramirez and Choate is the fact that the Dodgers did not have to give up top pitching prospect Zach Lee to get him. Los Angeles is now free to include Lee in a deal that could bring back Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza, both right-handed pitchers for the Chicago Cubs.
Because of his desire to be in Los Angeles, Dempster put a pending trade to the Atlanta Braves on hold to give the Cubs more time to work out a deal with the Dodgers. Atlanta general manager Frank Wren has now indicated that the team has moved on from the Dempster discussions, meaning the price for the Dodgers could go down even more.
With Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels now officially off the market after agreeing to a six-year $140 million contract extension, it seems almost certain that the Dodgers will acquire either Dempster or Garza, making an already strong starting rotation even better.
With Ramirez improving the Dodgers on the field and in the everyday lineup and with its best trade asset still available to improve the rotation, Los Angeles should emerge as the National League’s best team once the July 31 non-waiver MLB trade deadline passes on Tuesday.
The Dodgers made out pretty well the last time they acquired a disgruntled Ramirez (Manny in 2008), so it’s possible that lightning could strike twice.