By JAY LeBLANC
July 31, 2008
So let me get this straight: A 600-home run hitter, a member of the 500-home run club who also happens to be a former World Series MVP and a two-time All-Star all change addresses in the last day of action before the trade deadline? That’s what I like to hear! Normally the trade deadline is a bit of a letdown, with plenty of talk but little action. Not this year.
Boston ridded itself of a headache, but also one of the most feared hitters in the game. The Dodgers added some punch to a punchless lineup, but made their outfield logjam even more extreme. The Pirates sold off their best player for a haul of prospects, which is what last-place clubs are supposed to do. The White Sox picked up one of the great sluggers in the game’s history, but can he still help them at age 38? The Reds must not think so, since they basically gave him up for a soda and a bag of chips. Let’s take a closer look at the deadline deals, shall we?
Three way trade: Dodgers receive OF Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox; Red Sox receive OF Jason Bay from the Pirates; Pirates receive OF/1B Brandon Moss and RP Craig Hansen from the Red Sox and 3B Andy LaRoche and minor league RHP Bryan Morris from the Dodgers
As a Boston Red Sox fan, it’s tough to see Manny Ramirez go, but the tension between him and the club had grown to the point where it was going to be a huge distraction down the stretch. Ramirez remains one of the most feared hitters in the game, and losing his bat in the heat of the pennant race is not something Boston would have preferred to do under normal circumstances. However, Jason Bay is a pretty decent replacement. Ramirez is hitting .299 with 20 home runs and 68 RBI this season, while Bay checks in at .282 with 22 homers and 64 RBI. If he can continue to provide production similar to what Ramirez brought to the Red Sox lineup without the headaches, this will go down as a good deal for the Sox. The team sent $7 million to the Dodgers to pay Ramirez for the rest of this year, which isn’t the biggest deal for John Henry & Co., and had soured on both of the prospects they sent to Pittsburgh in the deal.
The Los Angeles Dodgers did well to add Ramirez’ potent bat to the lineup, but they only made their outfield logjam worse in the process as they now have Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Juan Pierre fighting for playing time. Obviously Ramirez is going to play and you’d think Kemp has done enough to remain in the lineup, but it will be interesting to see how they juggle the other three. Ethier has had a solid year and is probably the most deserving of playing time, but Jones and Pierre are pretty pricey to be sitting on the pine. The Dodgers probably wished they never signed either of them to lucrative free-agent contracts even before they acquired Ramirez; now, the sight of them languishing on the bench or stealing time from up-and-comer Ethier will probably be enough to make the front office sick. Jones, especially, is just terrible, and he showed it in 2007 before L.A. curiously dumped $36 million on him for two years; Pierre is basically what he was before he signed with the Dodgers, so they if they’re complaining now, they should have done their homework before signing him. L.A. may someday regret giving up Andy LaRoche in this deal, but that remains to be seen. Bryan Morris is a decent prospect, but not an elite talent and years away from the bigs.
The Pittsburgh Pirates did pretty well to get a top prospect and three other decent ones for Bay, who they’d been trying to unload for more than a year. LaRoche was ranked by Baseball America as the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect entering this season, while Morris was No. 12 on their list. The publication ranked Brandon Moss as the No. 11 prospect in the Red Sox organization, while Craig Hansen checked in at No. 18. LaRoche isn’t much of a defender at the hot corner but is a good young hitter with solid power potential who is probably just about ready for prime time. Morris, a 2006 first-rounder, missed all of 2007 after undergoing Tommy John surgery but had bounced back to post a 3.20 ERA in the Class A Midwest League so far this season. Moss was once one of Boston’s top prospects, but they had soured on him over the past few years even as he put up good numbers in the minors. They also had more or less given up on Hansen, a 2005 first-rounder who reached the bigs later that summer but has yet to match his minor league success in the majors. Both of these former Red Sox prospects are talented and could benefit from the change of scenery and the increased opportunities they’ll get in Pittsburgh.
White Sox acquire OF Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds for 2B Danny Richar and RHP Nick Masset
Ken Griffey Jr. isn’t the player he once was, but since the first-place Chicago White Sox gave up very little for him, it was definitely a risk worth taking. It’s not clear how Griffey will fit into the team’s plans, but he definitely gives them more options - not to mention a powerful left-handed hitter with more than 600 career home runs. However, it’s unclear how much Griffey actually has left in the tank, as he’s hit just .245 with 15 jacks so far this season despite playing his home games in Cincinnati’s Great American Bandbox. Paul Konerko (.214, 9 home runs, 35 RBI) is having a dreadful season, so chances are the White Sox will shift Nick Swisher to first and have Junior patrol center field. Whether or not the 38-year-old is up to the challenge remains to be seen, but neither Carlos Quentin nor Jermaine Dye figure to fare much better in that spot, so it’s worth a shot. If the White Sox mash like they’re capable of doing, it probably won’t matter much anyway.
The Cincinnati Reds sure didn’t get much for the future Hall of Famer. Danny Richar, who was in the mix for the ChiSox’ second base gig during the spring, isn’t much of a prospect. He was hitting .262 with nine home runs and 11 stolen bases in triple-A, and it’s not like the Reds need a second baseman anyway with Brandon Phillips in the fold. 26-year-old Nick Masset is about as average a right-handed middle reliever as you can find. He’s actually a bit below average, as his 4.63 ERA this season and 5.63 career mark would attest. With 57 strikeouts and 49 walks in 92 2/3 innings as a big leaguer, he doesn’t offer much in the way of stuff or command, either. Apparently the Reds just wanted to rid themselves of Griffey, who came to Cincinnati with much fanfare and left with a whimper. At least he now has a shot at the playoffs, maybe even his first World Series ring if things go right.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and mayor of the National Pastime web community. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Photos by The Associated Press