Falling out of playoff contention, the Miami Marlins did what they usually do, shed salary in exchange for young, inexpensive pitching.
Numbers Game looks at the Marlins dealing away Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, among others.
The Dodgers Get: 3B Hanley Ramirez and LHP Randy Choate
Ramirez, 28, was an elite player for five seasons before falling off dramatically last season. While he has been better this season, he's still far from star status, hitting .246 with 14 home runs, 47 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a .745 OPS (this from a player with a .300 career batting average and .873 career OPS).
While Ramirez is showing patience, seeing a career-high 4.14 pitches per plate appearance, and still making contact at the plate, the quality of his contact is not as good as it has been previously. He's swinging at, and making contact with, more pitches out of the strike zone and that has had an affect on his power numbers; this season's .430 slugging percentage is the second-lowest mark of his careeer, surpassing only last season's miserable .379.
In Los Angeles, Ramirez can play either of the spot on the left side of the infield. Ramirez shifted to third base, from shortstop, this season to accomodate free agent Jose Reyes in Miami, and the Dodgers don't have real quality at either spot. Even if Hanley isn't much of a fielder, he's going to represent a significant upgrade on veteran Juan Uribe at third base or speedster Dee Gordon at shortstop. Since Gordon is likely to have more of a future with the Dodgers, once he returns from the DL, it seems more likely that Ramirez will eventually find a home at the hot corner.
Ramirez has two years and $31.5-million remaining on his contract after this season (mlbcontracts.blogspot.com) and it was reportedly the Dodgers' willingness to take on that salary that allowed Los Angeles to make the deal without sacrificing elite talent in return.
Choate is a 36-year-old southpaw who is a specialist. This season, he's held lefthanded hitters to a .150 batting average and .383 OPS and over his career, he has limited lefties to a .203 average and .562 OPS so, in the right situation, he can be an effective addition to the bullpen.
Earning a modest $1.5-million this season, Choate is in the final year of his current contract, minimizing the Dodgers' commitment.
The Tigers Get: RHP Anibal Sanchez and 2B Omar Infante.
Sanchez, 28, is a quality starting pitcher, who hasn't received a great deal of support from the Marlins. Since the start of 2011, he's 13-16 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, striking out 312 in 317 1/3 innings.
As with most pitchers, there should be some concern when moving from the National League to the American League. In 13 career Inter-League games, Sanchez has a 3-5 record with a 5.00 ERA and 1.49 WHIP (and, incidentally, he's never pitched against the Tigers).
Nevertheless, he's a quality addition to the Tigers' rotation, probably fitting in as their second-best starter behind Justin Verlander and ahead of Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Sanchez, who is making $8-million this season, will be a free agent at season's end.
Infante is a 30-year-old infielder who doesn't have a lot of power (this season's .442 slugging percentage, his highest since 2004, notwithstanding) and even though he's been a solid contributor with the bat this season (8 HR, 33 RBI, 10 SB, .287 AVG, .754 OPS), Infante has struggled after a strong start. He hit .301 with six homers and 20 RBI in 173 at-bats through the first two months of the season, but has hit .241 with two homers and 13 RBI in 174 at-bats since.
Moving to the American League presents a challenge, but not one with which Infante is unfamiliar -- he played 494 games for the Tigers from 2002 to 2007. In Detroit, Infante's adequate bat counts as an upgrade at second base, where the Tigers have been left to deal with the struggles of Ramon Santiago, Ryan Raburn and Danny Worth this season. Detroit second basemen have a cumulative .561 OPS this season, worst in the majors.
The Marlins Get: RHP Jacob Turner, LHP Brian Flynn, C Rob Brantly, RHP Nathan Eovaldi and RHP Scott McGough.
Turner is a 21-year-old righthander that was drafted ninth overall in 2009. He's taken his lumps (8.28 ERA, 1.80 WHIP) in six big-league starts over the last couple seasons, but he's very young and his impressive work in the minor leagues (15-14, 3.21 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 269 K, 330 2/3 IP in 58 GP) does indicate that he should eventually be a bona fide major league starter.
There might be some concern about his low strikeout rate this year at AAA (5.7 K/9 in 10 starts) but, within a year, he could be in the Marlins' rotation.
Flynn, 22, is a 6-foot-8 lefty who spent most of this season at Class-A Lakeland, recently getting promoted for a start at Double-A. In 32 minor league starts, Flynn is 15-7 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he's been more hittable (and somewhat unlikely according to his batting average on balls in play) as he climbed the ladder this season, posting a 1.45 WHIP and allowing 10.2 hits per nine innings.
He's not a sure thing, but a lefty who can dial his fastball into the mid-90s is a worthwhile upside play for the Marlins. With further development, he might be a future starter but, failing that, he may still have value in the bullpen.
23-year-old catcher Rob Brantly was a third-round pick of the Tigers in 2010 and he's worked his way up to Triple-A this season. Brantly has a solid approach at the plate, hitting .275 with a .715 OPS and striking out 120 times in 928 career minor league at-bats, so perhaps he's a viable option to eventually replace John Buck, whose contract runs through next season, behind the plate.
In the deal with the Tigers, the Marlins also swap
Nathan Eovaldi, 22, has made 16 starts (in 20 games) over the last couple of years with the Dodgers, posting a 2-8 record, but a respectable 3.96 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP.
Eovaldi does have a fastball that is averaging over 94 MPH (per www.fangraphs.com) in the major leagues, but his slider has been his most effective pitch this season. With further development, he has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter for the Marlins.
22-year-old Scott McGough has a power repertoire that gives him a shot to work out of the bullpen. In 60 minor-league appearances, he's 4-10 with 15 saves with a 3.48 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, striking out 80 in 72 1/3 innings. His command has been shaky this year at Advanced Class-A Rancho Cucamonga (24 walks in 46 1/3 IP), but he's still a few years away from getting his shot in the majors.
While Sanchez's spot in the rotation can be filled by Eovaldi, the Marlins will need new faces in the infield. Rookie Donovan Solano should get the first crack at third base, while Emilio Bonifacio, who had been playing more centre field, will handle second base.
Looking in total at the return the Marlins are getting, they have a couple of good starting pitching prospects, perhaps a couple of relievers (depending on Flynn's future) and a catcher.
Considering that the Marlins surrendered a player perceived to be as valuable as Hanley Ramirez in one of these trades, that makes the return underwhelming but, as always, this is about money for the Marlins. If they wanted elite prospects for Hanley, they could have eaten some of the remaining salary, but they didn't, so the package they get in return isn't so impressive.
Given the Marlins' history, it's never easy to see them start shedding salaries on a grand scale. They are in a new stadium (where I saw a game a less than a month ago -- nice venue and the crowd was into it) and have some excitement around the franchise, but if they go into complete firesale mode -- there have been rumours of ace righthander Josh Johnson being dealt too -- then the momentum could fall flat in a hurry.
For the Tigers and Dodgers, they both got pieces that will help them in their playoff bids and while it cost them a future starting pitcher, the overall cost for the assets they received was relatively modest because part of the deal was taking money off the Marlins' payroll. It pays to know with whom you are dealing.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.