Hanley Ramirez once predicted he would ultimately be anointed the next “Mr. Marlin” a day after Jeff Conine – the popular former player who wears that moniker – said that, if it was up to him, he would trade the talented but temperamental infielder due to his lack of effort.
Not only did Ramirez fail to win any popularity contests with either fans or teammates, but was traded on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Dodgers because of substandard performance that came to symbolize the misfortunes of the underachieving team he represented.
As the Marlins continued their sudden makeover in the wake of a season that has fallen far short of expectations, Ramirez and reliever Randy Choate were traded to the Dodgers for a pair of pitchers, including right-hander Nathan Eovaldi. The Dodgers also agreed to pick up the remainder of Ramirez’s contract, which will pay him $37.5 million through 2014.
The deal came two days after the Marlins traded starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for three minor-league prospects. That deal is saving the Marlins about $5 million this season and $4 million in 2013. As the July 31 trading deadline approaches, the Marlins may not be done dealing, either.
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Scouts have been watching starting pitcher Josh Johnson, along with other Marlins. But a source said it would take an overwhelming offer to part with Johnson and, with Sanchez being traded already, didn’t think the team would give up another starter.
“None of us envisioned where we are today,” said Larry Beinfest, Marlins president of baseball operations, in announcing the latest trade, which was completed Wednesday at about 3 a.m. “These are tough trades. But when you underachieve at the level this team has underachieved, we talked about a restructuring and this was part of it.”
Said Ramirez: “What can I say? I didn’t do what they expected me to do. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do on the field.”
Ramirez is a three-time All-Star, league batting champion and Most Valuable Player runner-up who has struggled to produce offensively the past two seasons, going from a .300-or-better hitter for four consecutive seasons from 2007-10 to a sub-.250 hitter each of the past two. He is batting only .246 this season, prompting manager Ozzie Guillen to demote him from the No. 3 spot in the order to the lower half of the lineup.
While the 28-year-old Ramirez became an instant sensation on the field for the Marlins not long after they acquired him and Sanchez in the 2005 trade with the Red Sox that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston (he won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2006), questions about his makeup dogged him throughout his seven seasons in South Florida.
He had verbal run-ins with some teammates, was benched by former manager Fredi Gonzalez – and also required to apologize to players – in 2010 for dogging it on a play after he kicked a ball inadvertently, and called Conine a “chicken” when the Marlins icon said in a radio interview last year that he thought Ramirez should be traded.
Still, the Marlins were depending on Ramirez to anchor the offense with his blend of power and speed. Though he was switched to third base from shortstop after the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, a position change that did not sit well with Ramirez, at least privately, management said he remained not only the face of the franchise, but the centerpiece of the lineup.
“We had some challenges and disappointments with Hanley along the way,” Beinfest said. “But the bottom line is, he is an exceptional talent. He meant a lot to this organization – a premium talent, an uber talent in a lot of respects.”
But it was a talent that, eventually, didn’t translate to success for either Ramirez or the Marlins.
“Maybe it’s time for a fresh start for Hanley, and maybe it’s time for a fresh start for the Marlins,” Beinfest said. “We could not figure out why Hanley and his talent, in his prime, was hitting in the mid-.240s. So, hopefully, he will do what he’s capable of, which is obviously not a .245 hitter.”
Ramirez said he couldn’t pinpoint the reason for his offensive decline, but added he doesn’t believe it will continue.
“I think almost seven years in the big leagues, struggling two years, I bet a lot of guys wish they can do that – out of seven, struggle two,” Ramirez said. “I’ve got a long career in front of me, and I think I’m going to get back to what I used to be.”
Sources said the Marlins were in trade discussions with four to five teams for Ramirez.
But the Dodgers were the only one that agreed to pick up his full contract. In return, the Dodgers also gave the Marlins two pitchers. Eovaldi will fill Sanchez’s spot in the rotation and start Saturday. In 10 starts this season for the Dodgers, he has gone 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA. But he has also received the lowest run support of any NL starter. Baseball America ranked Eovaldi, 22, as the third-best prospect in the Dodgers system.
The Marlins also received pitcher Scott McGough, a minor-league right-hander.
With Ramirez gone, Guillen said he would use several players at third base, including Donovan Solano, Greg Dobbs and Donnie Murphy, who is expected to be called up from Triple A New Orleans.
“It’s hard to believe,” Ramirez said. “Last night I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep knowing I was going to leave my Miami. It’s my family. I’ve been with the Marlins for seven years in the big leagues. I was hoping to stay here my entire career. It didn’t happen, but they’re always going to be part of my family.”