Mid-Season Trade Candidates for 2012—Hanley Ramirez

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When considering how to approach this posting, something occurred to me: what are the Marlins going to do if they shift Hanley Ramirez to third base, he’s playing there for awhile—be it a week, a month or half a season—and new shortstop Jose Reyes gets hurt with, oh I dunno, a hamstring pull?

What will Ramirez say if he’s asked to move back to shortstop to replace the injured Reyes and then is asked to move back to third when Reyes returns?

If you pay attention to several of the Mets beat writers, Reyes’s hamstring issues aren’t prevalent; he had them early in his career, was completely healthy from 2005-2008, then tore his hamstring in 2010, in part, because of the Mets shoddy medical diagnosis and decision to play him while he was compromised; in 2010, he had a thyroid problem; in 2011, there were two stints on the disabled list because of his hamstring and he didn’t run all out when he came back after the second because he didn’t want to further diminish his paycheck as a free agent.

These are facts.

Reyes’s hamstrings are a weak point whether or not it’s admitted by those who lament the Mets decision to let him depart without an aggressive offer.

The Marlins haven’t found a utility infielder to play shortstop in case of such an eventuality. I suppose Emilio Bonifacio could play shortstop, but he’s not very good defensively at the position; then again, neither is Ramirez. Bonifacio is serviceable at third; the Marlins would be better off with Ramirez at short and either Bonifacio or solid defender Matt Dominguez playing third for however long Reyes is out.

But would they do that?

And would Ramirez get more aggravated than he already is about the shifting back-and-forth?

The Yankees made it a point not to move Alex Rodriguez to shortstop whenever Derek Jeter was out for a day or two when it would’ve made sense. A-Rod was a better defensive shortstop than Jeter’s ever been, but as a conciliatory gesture to Jeter, they didn’t do it. It was silly, but understandable.

Would the Marlins do the same thing? If they do, they’d better get themselves a backup infielder who can play short.

With Ramirez, the silence has been deafening since the public pronouncement that he didn’t want to move to third. The team has successfully tamped down the drama, but it hasn’t been settled. It’s clear they’re not going to trade Ramirez unless he out-and-out demands it and he’s an important part of their offense; for all the flashy moves they’ve made, they’re still flawed at the back of their starting rotation and defensively shaky.

If it gets messy during the season, the Marlins might put Ramirez on the market. He doesn’t have a no-trade clause; he’s signed through 2014 for $46.5 million; if he’s hitting and healthy, he’d bring back multiple pieces—big ones.

The Marlins have shown no mercy in making trades and in spite of Ramirez’s status as a favored son of owner Jeffrey Loria, Loria needs the team to win next year; he’s not going to sacrifice the season and mitigate this winter’s spending spree to placate any player, even one he thinks so highly of and has enabled since his arrival.

There are already people around the Marlins that have had enough of Ramirez’s selfishness and laziness and felt he should’ve been traded away before now.

He’s not being selfish now because he’s not wrong. The Marlins have spent so much money on outsiders while not taking care of Ramirez as the Rockies and Brewers took care of their cornerstones Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Braun with extensions on top of similar extensions as the one Ramirez had signed in 2008.

But he was wrong in the other instances and allowed to get away with his behaviors; he won a power struggle with Fredi Gonzalez; he survived being threatened by Andre Dawson. Is it so farfetched to think that the opposite can happen in 2012 if the world is crumbling around a disappointing Marlins club in need of a spark?

No.

Ramirez is a name to watch at mid-season because there are all the ingredients in place for a blockbuster.

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The Mets Can’t Win

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I don’t mean on the field.

Obviously it’s going to be hard for them to compete in the National League East with the Phillies, Braves, Marlins and Nationals; but as I said when the Jose Reyes signing by the Marlins was leaked to the media, this is where the Mets are. They didn’t have the money and/or the desire to pay Reyes and let him leave.

What’s being ignored is that the Mets weaknesses in 2011 were not at the plate. In fact, they were more than capable of surviving without Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis in the lineup and enduring poor years from Jason Bay and Angel Pagan.

How did they do it?

They had the second highest on base percentage in the National League which led to them finishing sixth in the league in runs scored. They had no power as Carlos Beltran led the team with 15 homers despite being traded in July. With the outfield fences being moved in, Citi Field will be more hitter-friendly to Wright and Bay which should lead to more production. One thing about the Mets front office led by Sandy Alderson: they did the math of how the new park dimensions will affect the hitters and the pitchers. Whether the projections are accurate or not is unknown. If anything, the mental block that has affected Wright since he set foot in the new, cavernous park will be removed.

There are two ways to go about building a team in the off-season: you can bolster strengths or address weaknesses. As difficult as it is to believe, the Mets strength was actually offense. That’s only in part due to the career season of Reyes— a career season that included two stints on the disabled list; a controversial bunt to win the batting title; a .337 average and a weak .384 OBP in conjunction with that lofty average. He also stopped stealing bases after his hamstring woes in what looked to be a concession to staying healthy as he headed towards free agency.

Their weaknesses were the bullpen, a lack of depth—both personnel wise and in innings pitched—in the starting rotation; and black holes in the lineup.

One of those black holes was Pagan.

Pagan has long been an impressive talent. Something like a baseball Frankenstein, Pagan’s creation seems to have been through mined bodyparts from a baseball graveyard. Somewhere in that body, he can run like Tim Raines; hit like Bernie Williams; and field like Garry Maddox.

He was also deprived of a functioning baseball brain.

For a management group that either wants players who listen to instruction or know what to do and when to do it, Pagan was a clear target for dispatching. It could’ve been any number of things that hastened his departure—his rising salary; his frequent injuries; his consistent on-field mistakes—but it was probably his attempt to double off a Cardinals baserunner—by throwing the ball towards Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay—that was the catalyst for the team to say enough’s enough.

Pagan was traded to the Giants for outfielder Andres Torres and right handed reliever Ramon Ramirez.

It’s partially addition by subtraction and partially getting functional bodies who will be better than what they had.

Both Torres and Ramirez are better and cheaper than what the prior bullpen inhabitants.

The Mets also signed two former Blue Jays relievers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco.

Rauch receives a 1-year deal for $3.5 million; Francisco 2-years at $12 million.

All the relievers they acquired are relatively cheap and competent. Relief pitchers fluctuate from year-to-year and overpaying for them—especially with limited finances—is absurd.

Will these decisions spur a load of season ticket purchases? Inspire the media to suddenly cease the bashing of the team for doing the things that Alderson and Co. did with the Padres and Athletics they were faced with not having the money for big ticket items and instead went the affordable and sane route?

Probably neither, but the Mets filled needs in the bullpen and by getting rid of Pagan. The entire 2012 season is hinging on the improvement of young pitchers Jonathon Niese and getting something useful from Mike Pelfrey; the offense might be improved by the aforementioned factors of ballpark and Davis coming back; also Lucas Duda showed an impressive spurt of power late in the season.

Considering the way they were constructed in recent years and the doom accompanying the overreacting devastation at Reyes’s departure, they made some smart decisions that were what the media and fans were clamoring for in opposition to just buying things that were overpriced as they did under the prior regime.

Overall, things could be much worse.

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