By Andrew Perna
The Hanging Curve will not follow the traditional pattern this week because of the flurry of trades over the last 24 hours. There is plenty of time for more movement ahead of the deadline next week, but we will highlight and grade some of the more prominent swaps from Tuesday and early Wednesday.
Rays Acquire Roberts From Diamondbacks
Shortly after he was designated for assignment by Arizona, Ryan Roberts was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for Double-A infielder Tyler Bortnick.
The Rays wanted to add a third baseman because of the lingering hamstring issues of Evan Longoria. He has been on the disabled list since May and there have been murmurs that he may not return to the field in 2012. If he does, it will not be at full strength.
Roberts hit .249/.341/.427 with 19 home runs and 65 RBI in 555 at-bats last season and his numbers are fairly similar this year. In half the number of at-bats, he has six home runs and 34 RBI and is hitting .250/.306/.357.
He should not be considered a replacement for Longoria, that would not be fair to Roberts, but he will provide the Rays with added depth at the position.
Grade for Rays: B+, Grade for Diamondbacks: C+
Marlins Trade Hanley To Dodgers
In case you did not know, the Marlins are in full sell mode. After trading Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers on Tuesday, they agreed to send Hanley Ramirez and reliever Randy Choate to the Dodgers in exchange for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and a minor leaguer. Reports have indicated that the minor leaguer is right-hander Scott McGough.
Ramirez, who is hitting .246/.322/.428 this season, has seen his trade value plummet over the last eight months.
His departure from Miami appeared inevitable when the team signed Jose Reyes this past winter, forcing Ramirez to move from shortstop to third base. After a rough couple of weeks immediately following the signing, Ramirez became a good solider of sorts, but the marriage on the left side of the infield never worked out.
Ramirez is making $15 million in the fourth year of a six-year, $70 million contract. He will make $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014.
It remains to be seen where he will play for Los Angeles. There is room on the left side with shortstop Dee Gordon on the disabled list and third baseman Juan Uribe hitting just .190 with 17 RBI.
As of this writing, the Dodgers have not been able to work a deal for the coveted Ryan Dempster, but acquiring Ramirez for essentially a batting helmet and glove, no disrespect to Eovaldi and McGough, is a huge win.
The Dodgers rank in the bottom third in most offensive categories, hitting .249/.319/.364 with a team OPS of .682. They entered action on Wednesday trailing the Giants by 2.5 games in the National League West.
Los Angeles is hoping Ramirez will prove that his efforts since the beginning of the 2011 season were an aberration given a change of scenery. If that turns out to be the case, this deal is an absolute steal. If he maintains his current numbers, he will be overpaid but will still upgrade an offense that is anemic aside from Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
Grade for Dodgers: A, Grade for Marlins: C
Pirates Deal Three Minor Leaguers For Rodriguez
The Pirates are doing all they can to ensure they not only finish the season above .500, ending a historic string of losing campaigns, but also grab a playoff berth in the process. They entered Wednesday with 12 more wins than losses, trailing Cincinnati by more than two games in the National League Central.
Wandy Rodriguez, acquired for left-handers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain and outfielder Robbie Grossman, will bolster an already respectable rotation.
Pittsburgh has the sixth-best ERA in baseball (3.48) thanks to a rotation led by A.J. Burnett and James McDonald, who both entered the season as question marks. The one area that the Pirates have seen their starters struggle is length. The Pirates rank in the bottom third in quality starts, but Rodriguez averages close to seven innings per outing.
His presence should place less stress on the bullpen, providing a ripple effect through the pitching staff.
Through 21 starts for the Astros, Rodriguez is 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA and nearly three times as many strikeouts as walks. That represents his best strikeout-to-walk ratio since 2009 and the third-highest of his career.
That average can be a bit deceiving. He is averaging just 6.13 strikeouts per nine innings, his lowest mark since 2006 (his second season). He simply is not walking batters, showcasing the wonderful command the left-hander has had since he entered the Majors.
The 10 starts he makes over the next two months could enter him into Pittsburgh lore if the Pirates play deep into October. With that said, fans also have to be excited about what this deal means for the franchise going forward.
Rodriguez has the ability to make close to $30 million over the next two-plus seasons, including a $14 million option for 2014 that became his choice with the trade. The Astros will send Pittsburgh roughly $17.7 million to offset the cost of taking on Rodriguez, meaning they will have a bill of more than $12 million over the next 27 months.
That is not a huge financial undertaking, even for a team in a smaller market, but it is a sign that the Pirates are willing to take financial risks in order to win. After building up their organizational talent and depth, this is how they will make the next step.
Rodriguez will be 35 when the 2014 season begins and it has been some time since he pitched in a pressure-packed game. He pitched as a reliever for Houston during their run to the World Series in 2005. He has not pitched in the playoffs since.
But at this point, the Pirates are just worried about getting to the dance.
Grade for Pirates: A, Grade for Astros: C
Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays