Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marlins trade Mujica & Sanchez, add prospects

Gaby Sanchez and Edward Mujica are moving to the NL Central
BY David Villavicencio

Just an hours before the trade deadline, the Marlins continued to move pieces and look towards the future.

According to MLB.com's Peter Gammons, Miami sent reliever Edward Mujica to the Cardinals for prospect Zack Cox. ESPN's Jim Bowden reported the Marlins also moved first baseman Gaby Sanchez and minor leaguer Kyle Kaminska to the Pirates for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance draft pick.

Mujica, 28, has been a serviceable middle reliever in his career but has struggled for the Marlins this season. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 4.38 ERA in 2012. Mujica was 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA over 76 innings in 2011.

Cox is a talented hitter who can play 2B or 3B
Cox is a talented infielder who has struggled in his first taste of Triple-A. The Cardinals' first round pick in 2010, Cox is an offensive threat at third base though he has hit just .254 with nine homers and 30 RBI for Memphis. He hit .293 with 10 homers and 48 RBI for Double-A Springfield in 2011. He is reporting to the Marlins' Double-A affiliate in Jacksonville.

Sanchez, 28, struggled in 2012 after posting solid numbers in his first two big league seasons. The Miami native hit .202 with three homers and 17 RBI in 2012. An All-Star in 2011, Sanchez has proven capable of succeeding in the Majors, combining for 38 homers and 163 RBIs in 2010-11.

Can Hernandez figure it out in Miami?
The presence of Logan Morrison made it easier for the Marlins to move Sanchez even though Morrison has had his share struggles over the past two seasons. A career .260 hitter, Sanchez should get an opportunity to play first base in Pittsburgh, where Casey McGehee has struggled as the right-handed half of their first base platoon.

Hernandez, who will join the Marlins on Wednesday, is a former highly regarded prospect who has seen his star fade over the years. Once a key piece in the trade that sent Nate McLouth to the Braves, Hernandez has not developed the way the Pirates had hoped. The speedy 24-year-old appeared in 25 games this season with the Pirates, collecting two hits over 24 at-bats. Hernandez has hit .257 with 11 doubles, two triples, two homers, 43 runs scored and 25 RBI in Triple-A this season.

Kaminska is a 23-year-old right-handed reliever that was pitching with Double-A Jacksonville. His 6-3 record and 5.11 ERA are not impressive but his 44-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season is a positive for the Pirates organization.

With two trades already completed, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reported that more are on the way. While Frisaro did not detail who would be involved, the Marlins have been trying to move first baseman Carlos Lee and catcher John Buck.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Marlins trade Hanley Ramirez to Dodgers

Ramirez is done as a Marlin
BY David Villavicencio

The news broke early Wednesday morning.

Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown reported the Marlins traded former batting champ Hanley Ramirez and left-hander Randy Choate to the Dodgers for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough. The Marlins did not send any money to help cover what is left on Ramirez is contract. He is making $15 million this season and is due $31.5 million through 2014.

The fact the Marlins traded Ramirez does not come as a surprise as rumors have swirled in recent weeks of teams checking in on the three-time All Star.

Ramirez was the key talent the Marlins received in 2005 when they traded Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox. The next season, Ramirez won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

From 2008-2010, Ramirez started at shortstop for the National League in the All-Star Game. In 2009, he hit a career-best .342 to win the batting title. Ramirez was viewed by many as one of the top talents in baseball but then things began to change.

One season after leading the league in hitting, Ramirez decided to change his entire batting stance, swing and approach. The new stance and approach did not have the same results as what had previously made him a star.

Ramirez hit .300 in 2010 but many suspect that he pulled himself out of games and eventually finished the season on the Disabled List to assure that he would not finish the season batting under .300.

Everyone remembers this incident
That same season, Ramirez had one of his most infamous moments. The shortstop lollygagged after a ball he let drop in shallow left field as D-backs runners rounded the bases and scored. Then manager Fredi Gonzalez immediately removed Ramirez from the game and an ugly back and forth ensued afterwards with Ramirez questioning authority and undermining Gonzalez because he never played in the Majors.

Things only got worse for Ramirez as he posted a .243 batting average in 2011. His previous career-low was .292 as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006. Combined with a lack of effort, bad attitude, enigmatic personality and selfish tendencies, Ramirez had turned into more of a problem than a franchise cornerstone.

This season, Ramirez shifted to third base to make room for Jose Reyes. Already a bigger shortstop, the move allowed Ramirez to bulk up and prepare to put up the power numbers many expect from a third baseman. It was also expected to help his defense as Ramirez's range had dimished in recent years thanks to his size.

Despite doing a decent job at his new position, Ramirez continued to struggle at the plate. He posted a .246 average in 92 games before being traded to Los Angeles. His final at-bat with the team ended in a called third strike to end Tuesday's loss to the Braves.

The return the Marlins received for Ramirez is underwhelming. The fact that Choate was also included in the deal makes the return even worse as Choate is one of the top lefty specialists in the league. He was essentially thrown in for nothing. Or maybe he is the reason McGough was included in the deal. Either way, the Marlins received a lot less than many would expect for what they gave up.

Nathan Eovaldi was the Dodgers' 2nd best prospect
Eovaldi was considered a solid pitching prospect in the Dodgers' system but he has not have very good results in limited Major League action. The 22-year-old is just 2-8 in the Majors but he has posted a solid 3.96 ERA over 20 big league appearances (16 starts).

Similar to Jacob Turner, who the Marlins acquired on Monday in a trade with the Tigers, Eovaldi is young (22) and has had success in the minors. Where they differ is that Turner is expected to develop into a front of the rotation pitcher while Eovaldi projects more as a middle of the rotation arm.

McGough is a former fifth-round pick in 2011. The hard-throwing right-hander was 3-5 with a 3.99 ERA over 47 1/3 innings for High-A Rancho Cucamonga this season. While McGough has the power arm that most look for in a late inning reliever, he was not considered a solid prospect by several outlets. McGough did not rank among the top 20 prospects in the Dodgers organization.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Selling Begins: Marlins trade Anibal & Infante to Tigers

Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante are headed to Detroit
BY David Villavicencio

Many expected the Marlins to sell at this year's trade deadline but Monday evening the anticipation became reality.

The Marlins traded right-hander Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Tigers for right-hander Jacob Turner and a pair of prospects, catcher Rob Brantly and left-hander Brian Flynn. The teams also made history by swapping competitive balance draft picks. It is the first time in history that draft picks have been traded in Major League Baseball.

The trade should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the Marlins recently. The Fish have lost their last five games, dropping to seven games below .500 and 11.5 games behind the division-leading Nationals. Rumblings of potential deals have increased as the team has underperformed.

Losing Sanchez hurts the Marlins' starting rotation but the right-hander is a free agent at the end of the season and the Marlins were likely to lose him to another team. Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 2006, immediately upgrades a Detroit rotation that has underperformed behind ace Justin Verlander. The 28-year-old is 44-45 with a 3.75 ERA over 132 big league starts.

Infante signed a two-year deal worth $8 million prior to this season and the 30-year-old has been one of the better Marlins in 2012. Infante started off red-hot and was one of the top hitters in the Majors before injuries slowed him a bit. The 11-year veteran returns to the team that gave him his first opportunity in the big leagues. A career .276 hitter, Infante spent the first six years of his career with the Tigers.

Marlins fans initially reacted negatively when news of the trade broke. But fans may feel differently after they learn a little about what they received in return for two talented but replaceable players.
Jacob Turner

The 21-year-old Turner is the jewel of the group. The No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Turner ranked as one of MLB’s top 30 prospects in 2010, 2011, and this season according to Baseball America. He’s widely considered one of the top 10-15 pitching prospects in baseball.

Turner is 1-2 with a 8.28 ERA over 25 big league innings but Marlins fans should not be discouraged by his struggles. The fact that Turner was deemed worthy of six big league starts by age 21 should be an indicator of how highly the Tigers thought of him.

Brantly is a 22-year-old catcher with some offensive ability. He is a career .275 hitter in nearly three seasons in the minors but was batting .313 for Double-A Erie before earning a promotion to Triple-A Toledo. Brantly is an intriguing prospect because some feel the former third-round pick could develop into a solid big league. At worst, he adds catching depth to an organization that was sorely lacking it.

Flynn was a seventh-round selection in 2011. The lefty has posted solid numbers in both A-ball and High-A ball. He lost his Double-A debut on July 23, allowing five runs over five innings for the Erie SeaWolves.

Fish fans should prepare for the possibility of more trades over the next week and into August. Many believe any player other than injured outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is available for the right package.

Some obvious players that could be traded include Carlos Zambrano and Randy Choate. Both are free agents at the end of the year and could appeal to contenders. Greg Dobbs could also be moved to a team looking to bolster their bench while Justin Ruggiano could add outfield depth to a contender.

Big names like Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson are rumored to be available for the right price. Johnson is due $13.75 million in in the final season of his contract next year but a contender looking to add starting pitching could put together a nice package for the Marlins' ace.

Ramirez is making $15 million this season and is due $31.5 million over the next two seasons. The enigmatic former batting champ has struggled mightily since 2011. The Marlins seem as open as they ever have been to moving a player they once felt was the face of their franchise. Trading Ramirez is difficult because it is hard to bring back equal value. It is especially difficult because the 28-year-old's stock is lower than ever but the Marlins seem willing to move him if they get an appealing offer.

The Marlins probably want to move Ricky Nolasco and the $11.5 million he is due next season but that will be a tough sell. Nolasco is 72-59 with a 4.50 ERA since 2006. The right-hander has not matched the success he had in 2008 when he won 15 games and had a career-best 3.52 ERA.

John Buck is another player the Marlins would likely be willing to move. The veteran catcher has not lived up to the three-year, $18 million contract he signed prior to the 2011 season. Buck, who is batting .179 this season, is due $6 million next season. Teams searching for catching may look into adding Buck but only if the Marlins are willing to help pay for what is left on his contract.

One player who likely will not be moved is Heath Bell. The right-hander and his three-year, $27 million contract are nearly untradeable thanks to Bell's major struggles this season. Marlins fans looking to move on from the veteran closer should hope he returns to All-Star form because he is probably going to be in Miami for a while.

Monday's trade is likely just the beginning of what could be a very active week for the Marlins. Fans may worry that the team is going to be dismantled like it has been in the past. That may not be the worst thing as this roster has clearly underperformed from the unrealistic expectations that were placed upon it.
The Marlins had a flawed roster this season but they are already working towards an improved future. Miami started that process Monday as they added a legitimate top pitching prospect and a talented catching prospect in exchange for an impending free agent and a good but not great infielder.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thank you, Jesus!

Allen will experience this again next June after the Heat win another ring.
By David Villavicencio

Jesus Shuttlesworth has arrived.

Veteran sharpshooter and He Got Game star Ray Allen has agreed to join the Miami Heat. The 36-year-old rejected a two-year deal from the Celtics worth $12 million to join the defending champion Heat. Allen's deal with Miami is worth $6.3 million over two years.

Allen is one of the purest shooters in NBA history. The 16-year veteran is a career 40 percent shooter from three-point range and he has averaged 20 points per game for his career.

Heat owner Micky Arison broke the news of Allen's acquisition with a tweet on Friday night saying, “It’s 2:30 a.m. in London and I was just woken up with great news,” Arison posted on Twitter. “Welcome to the family, No. 20.”

Allen will be the biggest free agent acquisition Miami makes this off-season. The 10-time All-Star took the mini mid-level exception that the Heat had to offer potential free agents. All other free agents Miami acquires will have to sign for the veteran minimum that is estimated at $1.3 million.

The Heat are expected to meet with free agents Marcus Camby and Rashard Lewis over the weekend. Camby is not expected to accept the veteran minimum. If he chooses to join the Heat, many speculate that it would be via a sign and trade. Lewis is rumored to be open to signing for the minimum but interest could increase for the two-time NBA All-Star and he may choose to sign with another team for a higher salary.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/07/2885419/micky-arison-tweets-that-ray-allen.html#storylink=cpy