Had you told me in 2009 that Hanley Ramirez would be traded for two unproven, mid-level pitching prospects three years down the road, I would have looked at you in sheer disbelief and possibly even spit in your general direction.
But once again—it really feels as though we say this every year—both Ramirez’s performance and overall presence had become unbearable, as he was batting .246/.322/.430 with 18 doubles, 14 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 92 games prior to the trade. After manning shortstop for the Marlins since 2006, Ramirez was seemingly unwilling to adjust to life as a third baseman. Not that his defense was anything special to begin with, but it was especially disappointing at the hot corner this season.
After dealing RHP Anibal Sanchez and 2B Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers on Monday afternoon, Miami indicated that they would continue to purge the organization of costly, underachieving talent. Man, they weren’t messing around.
Immediately, front office phones began ringing off the hook as every stunned GM called to say, “That’s all they gave up for Hanley? Hell, we could have swung something like that.”
Upon first glance, the Marlins’ return for Ramirez—who won the National League batting title (.342) and registered a 7.1 WAR in 2009—is shocking. Considering that the Dodgers’ have agreed to absorb the remaining $37.3 million on his contract ($15 million in 2012, $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014), this was too good of an opportunity to pass over, especially given Ramirez’s perpetually declining trade value.
Basically, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and crew recognized a rare opportunity to eradicate the organization of a former superstar now embedded in a downward spiral, and seized it without hesitation. Although clearing Ramirez’s salary from the payroll is the obvious highlight of this deal, the Marlins were able to net two more interesting pitching prospects one day after landing RHP Jacob Turner, C Rob Brantly and LHP Brian Flynn from Detroit.
Nate Eovaldi, RHP
Double-A: 2-2, 35 IP, 3.09 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 30 K/13 BB (9 G; 8 GS)
MLB: 1-6, 56.1 IP, 4.15 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 34 K/20 BB (10 GS)
After a fairly slow start to his professional career, Eovaldi enjoyed a breakout season at Double-A Chattanooga in 2011 when he went 6-5 with a 2.62 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 99 K/46 BB in 103 innings. The right-hander ultimately received a cup of coffee with the Dodgers later that season and made his big league debut as a 21-year-old.
Appearing in 10 games—six of which were starts—he registered a 3.63 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 34.2 innings. While his pure stuff was impressive, his command of it was not, striking out 23 but walking 20 batters.
At 6’2”, 215 pounds, Eovaldi has an arsenal of power pitches highlighted by a plus fastball, which registers between 93-98 mph and jumps out of his hand. The right-hander also features a hard, late-breaking slider in the low-to-mid-80s that, when located effectively off his fastball, is a legitimate out pitch.
In fact, it’s the only reason that he’s been mildly effective during his two stints with the Dodgers—opposing hitters are batting a paltry .176 with 17 strikeouts in 73 at-bats against the pitch. Eovaldi also possesses a changeup, although it’s more a mediocre "show-me" offering at the moment.
As a right-hander with a plus fastball-slider combo, Eovaldi will need to develop his changeup as a true third pitch, as well as refine his overall command to be successful in the major leagues. If he struggles with either objective, he still has an ideal arsenal for a career as a late-inning reliever. After undergoing Tommy John surgery while in high school, there will always be a lingering fear of future injury.
Scott McGough, RHP
High-A: 3-5, 5 SV, 47.1 IP, 3.99 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 48 K/26 BB (35 G)
An undersized pitcher at 6’0" 170 pounds, McGough, 22, possesses a lightning-quick arm and borderline max-effort mechanics. However, those aren’t necessarily bad attributes for a potential late-inning, right-handed reliever. His fastball typically sits in the 92-95 mph range, although he’s more than capable of reaching back to scrape 96-97 mph as needed.
His slider can be a big tease; when thrown correctly it’s a devastating and heavy pitch with plenty of tilt. But for the most part, McGough has struggles to repeat his release point and lacks overall command of the pitch.
With the potential to be a future closer—he has 15 saves in 61 games between 2011 and 2012—McGough’s success and subsequent rise through the Marlins’ system will be dictated by his control. Already regarded as a strikeout pitcher, the right-hander will obviously need to walk fewer hitters as he continues to develop. His current 4.94 BB/9 rate is a direct result of his fringy command being challenged at a more advanced level.
Although neither Eovaldi or McGough will become star-level players in the major leagues, the Marlins acquired a pair of electric young arms with a high ceiling if they can piece together the respective holes in their game. In all honesty, the Marlins seemed so eager to move Ramirez that they would have probably settled for a lesser return—provided the Dodgers still took on the remainder of his salary.
Going all-out for a fading superstar at the trade deadline is a notoriously risky move, especially when it involves trading prospects from an already barren farm system. However, given the Dodgers’ collective “win-now” mindset, the blockbuster acquisition of Hanley Ramirez has the potential to pay huge dividends over the duration of his contract—that is if he thrives from the change of scenery and revives his rapidly declining career as the Dodgers hope.