A.J. Ramos was strutting to the mound at Marlins Park before Friday’s game, enjoying a light-hearted moment with wrestling legend Ric Flair.
A few hours later, Ramos was on a cross-country flight to join his new team.
The Marlins traded Ramos late Friday night to the New York Mets — who are playing in Seattle this weekend — for prospects Merandy Gonzalez and Ricardo Cespedes.
Ramos, a 21st-round pick of the Marlins in 2009, earned his first All-Star selection last season with 40 saves and a 2.81 ERA. Ramos saved 92 of 111 opportunities during his near-six seasons with the Marlins, which ranks fourth on the team’s all-time list, and pitched in 325 games, going 15-16 with a 2.78 ERA in 327 1/3 innings.f
“This one is especially tough, just given the history with A.J.,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said after the trade was announced. “He’s our guy. [We] drafted. [We] developed. [He] came through our system. [We] watched him blossom into an All-Star closer for us.”
And with less than 48 hours to go before Monday’s non-waiver deadline, the Marlins likely aren’t done making moves.
The Miami Herald reported that the Yankees, Rockies, Royals and Brewers have all shown interest in Dan Straily, who is 7-6 with a 3.84 ERA in 21 starts this season and is slated to start Sunday’s game against the Reds.
Multiple reports have surfaced recently that the Cubs have inquired about backup catcher A.J. Ellis as well.
The Marlins (48-53) are nine games below the second National League wild-card spot heading into Saturday’s action, which has prompted them to think long-term and focus their efforts on rebuilding one of the lowest-rated farm systems in baseball.
The Marlins’ bullpen, in particular, has been one of its biggest disappointments with every member posting a higher ERA or higher batting average allowed — or in many cases, both — than a year ago.
“We, obviously, had different designs on how this season was going to go,” Hill said. “We felt coming into spring training that this was going to be a competitive team, a playoff team. For a myriad of reasons, we haven’t played as well as we’d have liked.”
Hill wasn’t the only member of the Marlins’ organization that felt the weight of Ramos’ departure.
“The way A.J. handled it, just a true pro,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I just have an appreciation for who he is. This guy comes to work every day, good teammate, worked hard, not afraid of the field at all, just a guy we liked having. But you also know your situation where you’re at.”
Giancarlo Stanton has had a close friendship with Ramos for some time.
“It’s different in terms of just going through the year and the grind together as we do,” Stanton said. “In general, it will be fine.”
Since June 26 the Marlins have traded shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, reliever David Phelps and Ramos for prospects, most of whom are still playing at the lowest levels in the minors.
Stanton has a full no-trade clause but said Saturday he is made aware by the front office if other clubs show interest in him.
“Yeah, I’m aware of things,” Stanton said.
When asked what the most frustrating part was with the Marlins making such trades in a disappointing season, Stanton responded:
“Every trade for minor-leaguers is two or three years away from seeing the result of that trade. That means two or three years of every person taken away is a couple years until you realize what that means.”
The Marlins think they got very good value in return for Ramos, particularly with Gonzalez, who is now rated the Marlins’ sixth-best prospect by MLB.com. The 21-year old right-handed pitcher is 29-13 with a 2.58 ERA in five minor league seasons, with 286 hits allowed and 300 strikeouts in 342 innings.
Cespedes, a 19-year old left-handed center fielder, is ranked 24th and believed to have plenty of potential despite only hitting .271 with two homers and 63 RBI in 184 minor league games.
Mattingly said Brad Ziegler, who had been on the DL since June 22 with a back strain, was reinstated Saturday and will handle those duties.
Ziegler (1-2, 6.52 ERA in 29 innings this season) has 85 career saves in his 10 major-league seasons, with a career-high 30 during the 2015 season with the Diamondbacks.
Ziegler pitched a couple of rehab outings last week and said he was feeling better than he had in three months.
“My arm is nice and fresh and feeling strong,” Ziegler said. “I’m just excited to be back and whatever the role is I want to help us win.”
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Straily (7-6, 3.84 ERA) vs. Cincinnati Reds RHP Luis Castillo (1-4, 4.05), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Miami Herald sportswriters Clark Spencer and Barry Jackson contributed to this report.