Dodgers get Hanley from Marlins in four-man swap
Three-time All-Star infielder acquired in exchange for Eovaldi, pitching prospect
ST. LOUIS -- Following through on new ownership's promise to aggressively improve the ballclub, the Dodgers on Wednesday acquired infielder Hanley Ramirez and reliever Randy Choate from the Marlins for pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough.
The Dodgers will pick up nearly $40 million in financial commitment to the sometimes controversial Ramirez, who is signed through 2014. Last month, the club gave Andre Ethier an $85 million contract extension.
"When the new owners came in, they set forth their intentions right away -- we're not going to do anything reckless or crazy, but we're not letting money stand in the way of a good baseball deal," said general manager Ned Colletti, whose financial hands were tied the past two years.
"They proved it [Tuesday] night. It's liberating and freeing to be able to make a baseball trade."
Colletti said the Dodgers are still hunting for a starting pitcher and a position player. Presumably Ryan Dempster of the Cubs is the former, and a first baseman is the latter.
The cat-and-mouse game continues with the Cubs. Dempster has no-trade rights and it's believed he will accept a trade only to the Dodgers, who reportedly balked at dealing top pitching prospect Zach Lee for a two-month rental, as Dempster will be a free agent after this season.
The need for a starting pitcher was heightened by dealing away Eovaldi, who had been in the rotation since Ted Lilly was injured in May. Lilly could be back in mid-August.
Ramirez is a three-time All-Star, former batting champ and National League Rookie of the Year. His acquisition was prompted by the lack of production from third baseman Juan Uribe and first baseman James Loney, who have become platoon players.
"It's a shot in the arm when you make a move like this," said manager Don Mattingly. "It tells everybody in the clubhouse, 'We're in it to win.'"
But like another Ramirez the Dodgers acquired four years ago at the Trade Deadline, he comes with some baggage. That didn't scare away the Dodgers for the other Ramirez, or this one.
"You never know what a change of scenery will do for somebody," said Colletti.
Having spoken by phone with his new player, Mattingly said Ramirez initially will take over shortstop, where Luis Cruz has filled in well during the absence of Dee Gordon. Mattingly was hesitant to say that Gordon will regain his starting job when he returns in mid-August from a torn thumb ligament. Gordon was rushed to the Major Leagues last year when the Dodgers -- then sellers -- traded Rafael Furcal to St. Louis.
"I don't think you're ever really, really set," said Mattingly. "It's a competitive world we're in. Right now Dee is not available and the scenario I like best is with Hanley playing shortstop. Dee is a young kid who has to keep proving himself."
A position move was one of several controversies that hounded Ramirez in his recent years with the Marlins. He initially balked at making that move when Miami signed free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes last winter, but third base is where Ramirez has played this year.
Like Manny Ramirez in 2008, however, the Dodgers apparently are convinced this Ramirez will arrive with a positive attitude, be willing to play where he's most needed on the diamond, and provide a jolt to the offense.
"He told us how excited [he is] to be here and [he'll] play wherever Donnie wants [him] to," Colletti said. "He said all he wants to do is win. The conversation gave me no pause whatsoever."
"I look at it as he's got a clean slate," said Mattingly. "The past has nothing to do with me or the Dodgers."
Mattingly called Ramirez a "middle-of-the-order guy," indicating he would either bat fourth behind Matt Kemp or fifth behind Ethier.
"It's all about protecting each guy," he said.
It has not been a good year for Ramirez, a .300 career hitter who is batting only .246 this year with 14 homers and 48 RBIs after hitting .243 last year, when he missed two months with a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery similar to the one Furcal underwent as a rookie. Colletti said he's satisfied Ramirez's surgery was successful.
Ramirez stole 51 bases each of his first two seasons, but has only 14 this year. His best season was 2009, when he hit a league-leading .342 and finished second in the NL MVP Award voting.
Most recently, Ramirez punched a dugout cooling fan with his right hand July 8 in St. Louis and developed an infection in the resulting cut when he didn't take prescribed antibiotics. That led to a falling out with Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, and Ramirez became part of an ongoing Marlins housecleaning.
Ramirez, 28, is working on a six-year contract that pays him $15 million this year, $15 million next year and $16 million in 2014.
The cost in Eovaldi, however, is substantial. The 22-year-old right-hander is 1-6 this year after taking over for the injured Lilly, but has been undermined by poor run support. His 4.15 ERA is lower than Clayton Kershaw's rookie ERA of 4.26.
The Dodgers are thin in Major League-ready starting pitching prospects. They are hopeful of getting Lilly back from a shoulder injury next month and might even have Rubby De La Rosa back in September. De La Rosa is recovering steadily from last year's Tommy John surgery. If they can't land Dempster by Friday, which was Eovaldi's next scheduled start with Los Angeles, they might call up Allen Webster from Double-A Chattanooga to make the start.
The 36-year-old Choate has a 2.49 ERA in 44 games and gives the Dodgers a second lefty to go with Scott Elbert. The Dodgers will be his fifth organization, and he played for the Yankees while current Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was a Yankees special instructor.
McGough, 22, was the club's fifth-round selection from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Oregon and was 3-5 with a 3.99 ERA and five saves in 35 relief appearances for Class A Rancho Cucamonga this year.
The Dodgers will move reliever Todd Coffey to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the Major League roster. A spot on the 25-man roster will open up when the Dodgers place Adam Kennedy on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.