Seeking to revive a stagnant offense, the Los Angeles Dodgers have acquired third baseman Hanley Ramirez and reliever Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins in exchange for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and minor-league pitcher Scott McGough, a source familiar with the trade said late Tuesday night.
Ramirez will join the Dodgers in St. Louis and could initially play a game or two at third base for manager Don Mattingly, but has been told he should expect to cover for Dee Gordon at shortstop for a period of time. Ramirez has not played shortstop since last season. When Gordon recovers from a torn thumb ligament, Ramirez will return to third base.
Ramirez, 28, is batting .246 with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs for the Marlins. He was moved off shortstop this winter, when the Marlins acquired Jose Reyes in an attempt to remake the club in its inaugural season at Marlins Park. The rebuild has not worked.
The Dodgers believe the skilled Ramirez will benefit from the change of scenery and recapture the form that made the three-time All-Star one of the National League’s better players at the end of the last decade. They will assume Ramirez’s contract, or about $38 million through the 2014 season.
Choate, a veteran left-hander, has a 2.49 ERA in 44 appearances for the Marlins.
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The Marlins, who received top-rated pitching prospect Jacob Turner from the Tigers, continued to rework their pitching staff. Eovaldi is a 22-year-old right-hander who was 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 10 starts for the Dodgers. From Nolan Ryan’s hometown of Alvin, Texas, Eovaldi was one of the team’s better prospects.
As the Marlins set about unloading players near the trading deadline, the Dodgers had sought starting pitching and an offensive player at one of their corner infield positions. They had engaged the Chicago Cubs on Ryan Dempster, which remains a distant possibility. When the Marlins became sellers in recent days, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti entered into negotiations for Ramirez. Due to new ownership, the Dodgers were willing to take on salary, which likely was attractive to the Marlins.
Three seasons ago, Ramirez won the National League batting title with a .342 average. He hit 24 home runs and drove in 106 runs in the same season, and seemed on the cusp of becoming a superstar. Since, however, his batting average and on-base percentage have fallen while he appeared to outgrow the shortstop position. He was reluctant to move off shortstop for his friend Reyes, but did so after conversations with new manager Ozzie Guillen and in the name of what was supposed to be a rebirth for the Marlins.
Ramirez got off to a slow start, batting .207 in April. After a bounce-back May in which he hit .322, he slumped through a .227 June and is batting .179 in July. He missed the four games prior to Tuesday night’s because of inflammation in his hand, caused when he struck a dugout cooling fan in frustration.
[Jeff Passan: 2012 trade tracker and analysis]
Because of Ramirez’s age and talent, the Dodgers believed he could revert to the player he once was. They needed a bat to go along with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and to revive an offense that struggled around them, and they had found the trade market rather thin in that regard.
The Dodgers scored the fewest runs in the league in June. July found them slightly better, but still without a real threat beyond Kemp and Ethier. As a result, the Dodgers’ 7½-game lead in the NL West in late May was gone by late June, and they were three back of the San Francisco Giants by mid-July.
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