Just when it seemed like Christmas was canceled and the afternoon was dead on the trade front, the Manny Ramirez deal went down and there's three sides to analyze (Jason Bay to Boston, four prospects to Pittsburgh, and the Manny Circus to LA).
Let's break this down city-by-city:
Boston: On the surface it looks like a lot to give up: Ramirez, two MLB-ready prospects, $7 million in cash. But Ramirez painted the Red Sox into a corner with his loafing and malcontent ways, and keep in mind the 2008 version of Ramirez is merely a good hitter, not an other-worldly one. Bay's a viable stand-in for LF and the middle of the order (.282/.375/.519), and he's under contract, affordably, through 2009. Given the Red Sox had no real leverage in this Ramirez dance, they did fine. Keeping Bay out of Tampa Bay's hands doesn't hurt, either.
Don't make the knee-jerk assumption that Bay's fantasy value will take a quantum leap -- entering today the Pirates had scored just five less runs than the Red Sox. Bay will also be adjusting to a new batch of pitchers. But Fenway Park remains a great hitter's park (especially for a right-handed bat), and AL lineups cycle around more than NL lineups do. Add it all up and this move should raise Bay's value a speck, if not significantly.
Los Angeles: The Dodgers get two free months of Ramirez, at the reasonable cost of two non-critical prospects (they clearly had soured on Andy LaRoche). Joe Torre has always been known as a player's manager and should be able to relate to Ramirez as well as anyone, in theory, can. Manny's also auditioning for his next contract, so motivation shouldn't be an issue. Any fantasy owner tied to Ramirez has to like the news -- we no longer have to worry about Ramirez pulling the plug on his team . . . at least not today. Okay, Dodger Stadium isn't as friendly as Fenway Park, but if Manny can stay reasonably focused in the box, park environment won't matter much. And doesn't Manny's personality seem better suited for the West Coast, anyway?
Andruw Jones figures to stay on the bench now that another outfielder is in town; perhaps a waiver deal will float through sometime in August. As for the other guys, it's essentially a 3-for-2 game with Juan Pierre, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier; previous lineup patterns suggest that Ethier will probably sit more than the other guys.
Pittsburgh: You never know with prospects, but you have to give the Bucs credit for buying-low on a couple of guys.
It wasn't that long ago that Craig Hansen was considered a high-upside closer-in-waiting; don't forget this is a former first-round pick who fairly recently conquered a sleep-apnea problem. Maybe he can get his hands on some high-leverage situations here fairly quickly; while his 2008 numbers are pretty ugly, we are talking about a team that right now entrusts the ninth inning to Tyler Yates. The Bucs will give Hansen a chance to show he deserves an important role.
Andy LaRoche was highly regarded into this season but the Dodgers obviously soured on him; perhaps this change of scenery (and being around his older brother, Adam) will lead to something positive happening in Steel City. The Pirates have good organization depth at third, but it's still an upside shot worth taking. It's a logical assumption that the Pirates will sit Jose Bautista and give LaRoche a chance to audition now, but let's see what John Russell has to say.
Brandon Moss has always projected as a reserve outfielder, but he'll get some time to prove the scouts wrong on that (if the Bucs get lucky, maybe this is another David Murphy story). I'm assuming today's news won't speed up the timetable on Triple-A OF Andrew McCutchen, but that's for the club to decide. As for pitcher Bryan Morris, check back in a few years -- the 21-year-old will stay in Single-A for now, and he's already had a Tommy John surgery.