Red Sox Finally Trade Ramirez

The Deal
The Red Sox and Dodgers acquired new left fielders at the trade deadline, hooking up with the Pirates to complete a three-team blockbuster. Boston finally carried through on its desire to be rid of Manny Ramirez by sending him (and roughly $7 million to pay the remainder of his 2008 salary) to the Dodgers. The Red Sox, in turn, got Jason Bay from the Pirates.

For helping rid Boston of Ramirez, the Pirates netted four young players: third baseman Andy LaRoche and righthander Bryan Morris from the Dodgers, and outfielder Brandon Moss and righthander Craig Hansen from the Red Sox.

The Big Leaguers
Ramirez, 36, probably needs no introduction to anyone reading this trade breakdown. He’s one of the greatest righthanded hitters of the post-World War II era and a certain future Hall of Famer. But he’s also a lackadaisical (to put it kindly) fielder and baserunner, and he has expressed bitterness in recent weeks over his contract situation because the Red Sox had yet to pick up his $20 million option for 2009. In the final season of an eight-year, $160 million deal, Ramirez accepted the trade to the Dodgers on the condition that the club options for 2009 and 2010 (another $20 million) be stricken from his contract. He’ll now be a free agent after this season. Ramirez has batted .299/.398/.529 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs in 100 games this season. For his career, the 11-time all-star has hit .312/.409/.590 with 510 homers and 1,672 RBIs in 2,050 contests.

Bay, 29, batted .282/.375/.519 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs in 106 games for the Pirates. It For a player who won 2004 National League Rookie of the Year honors and is a two-time all-star, Bay has taken an unconventional path to his current status as a run-producing left fielder. A 2000 22nd-round pick by the Expos out of Gonzaga, he now has been traded four times in seven years, most recently (before this) for Brian Giles in August 2003. In six big league seasons, Bay has hit .281/.375/.515 with 140 home runs and 454 RBIs in 722 games—not bad for someone whose career did not begin in earnest until age 25. Bay is signed for an affordable $7.5 million next season, after which he can become a free agent.

Injuries have sidetracked the 24-year-old LaRoche, who is the brother of Pirates first baseman Adam, and he’s managed to hit just .217/.348/.316 in 152 big league at-bats with the Dodgers spread over this season and last. An accomplished Triple-A hitter (.310/.412/.544 in 590 at-bats), LaRoche has taken full advantage of the friendly hitting conditions at Las Vegas, where he’s spent significant time in each of the past three seasons. Playing in Vegas, he’s hit .347/.456/.611 in 311 at-bats, while on the road he’s hit a more modest .269/.359/.470 in 279 at-bats. LaRoche’s most positive attributes are advanced pitch recognition and a good feel for hitting, as he lets the ball travel deep and has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. He’s got average power for third base, where he is a below-average defender.

Hansen, 24, was a first-round pick out of St. John’s in 2005, and he signed the richest draft deal in Red Sox history, a $4 million major league contract. Promoted to the majors shortly after his signing, Hansen struggled with his delivery and his command for much of 2006 and 2007. He has made strides this year, but his lack of consistent command continues to undermine his mid-90s fastball and his hard slider. Hansen has been part of a struggling Boston bullpen, and has gone 1-3, 5.58 in 32 big league games this year. Opponents are hitting .240 with two homers against him, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio is just 25-to-23 in 31 innings.

The Prospects
Morris may be the most intriguing prospect picked up by the Pirates at the 2008 trade deadline. The 21-year-old righthander was just hitting his stride in July with low Class A Great Lakes, after missing the 2007 season to Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2006 (26th overall), Morris was 2-4, 3.20 with 72 strikeouts, 31 walks and five home runs allowed in 82 innings for the Loons. He runs his fastball up to 94-96 mph and complements it with a plus hammer curveball. He had also shown a feel for an 86-88 mph power changeup that features hard downer movement.

Moss, 24, was an eighth-round pick out of a Georgia high school in 2002. The MVP of the South Atlantic League in 2004 and the Eastern League playoffs in 2006, he has the upside of a solid regular but was unlikely to get the opportunity to show that in Boston. In 176 games for Triple-A Pawtucket, the lefthanded batter had hit .282/.359/.485. His strong hands and the leverage in his swing give him the ability to hit for power and average, though he can fall into ruts when he becomes too homer-conscious. Though a slightly below-average runner, he covers enough ground and has the arm strength for right field. Moss has career .291/.348/.456 averages with two homers and 12 RBIs in 103 at-bats over 49 big league games.

Quick Take
Though Ramirez won the 2004 World Series MVP award and delivered a handful of clutch hits last October, the Red Sox felt he had become a distraction that could no longer be ignored. Acquiring Bay does provide Boston with a quality left fielder for 2009, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll miss his bat down the stretch or, if they qualify, in post-season confrontations. The fact that they’re paying $7 million, plus the remainder of Bay’s 2008 and 2009 salaries, indicates just how far they were willing to go to get rid of Ramirez.

It’s less clear what The Dodgers stand to gain, seeing as they had gotten steady contributions from corner outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier already. But Ramirez does give them the big-time power source they had lacked, and it has the side benefit of taking playing time away from the struggling Andrew Jones and Juan Pierre (assuming that Kemp assumes center field on a full-time basis). But on the flip side, now Ramirez, a well below-average defender, has to cover Dodger Stadium’s spacious left field. With this trade and the July 26 deal for Casey Blake, however, the Dodgers have positioned themselves up for a draft bonanza, as both veterans likely will yield Type A free agent compensation if they sign with other teams.

The Pirates make out well in acquiring three big league ready young players and one potential frontline pitcher in Morris. Combine this haul with the one collected in the Xavier Nady-Damaso Marte trade with the Yankees last week, and Pittsburgh’s net gain breaks down as: two top-shelf prospects in Morris and outfielder Jose Tabata; two big league-ready bats in LaRoche and Moss; and four advanced pitchers in Hansen, Ross Ohlendorf, Dan McCutchen and Jeff Karstens, four righthanders who can plug holes in the Pirates’ rotation or bullpen as soon as this August.

" Trade Central 2008