After years of Manny Ramirez trade rumors on deadline day, one finally went through. The Red Sox sent Manny to the Dodgers, relief pitcher Craig Hansen and outfielder Brandon Moss to the Pirates, and received leftfielder Jason Bay from the Pirates. The Dodgers sent the Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche and pitcher Bryan Morris.
This was as good a deal for the Red Sox as there could be in giving up one of the best hitters in the game and the best on their team. It was a great deal for the Dodgers. For the Pirates, maybe it will eventually make them a buyer at deadline day.
Jason Bay will step right into leftfield for the Red Sox although he might not fill Manny’s cleanup spot in the batting order just yet. Francona is very good at integrating players into a lineup and he may very well bat Kevin Youkilis or Mike Lowell fourth and Bay lower until he feels he is comfortable in the lineup. Bay is not the hitter that Manny is (although his numbers this year are close). He is however a better outfielder and baserunner (he can steal bases), younger, cheaper and definitely less of a distraction. His runs and RBI will likely increase in the more-potent Red Sox lineup. He does have the power that is needed to fill the Manny void. Most importantly, he is under contract for only $7.5 million next year and may be locked into a long-term deal if he impresses this season and next. Not to mention, he is a right-handed power hitter playing in Fenway.
Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss can hardly be considered losses. Hansen has a live arm and high hopes but has yet to deliver for the Red Sox. To his credit he was rushed, but still, he has had difficulty in pressure situations and when you are on a perennial contender, every relief situation is a pressure situation. Now the Red Sox will not have the option to use him and that may in fact make their bullpen better. He will probably do well in Pittsburgh. Moss is a solid outfielder but he was never going to play regularly in Boston. He does not have the power to take over for Manny in left, will not play center with Jacoby Ellsbury likely a fixture and will not supplant J.D. Drew in right. For the Red Sox he was at best a fourth outfielder. He can be an everyday player for a smaller team and may very well step up like former Pawtucket teammate David Murphy (who was traded to the Rangers with Kason Gabbard for Eric Gagne last year). He was nothing more than a trade chip and now will benefit by receiving more playing time.
Manny is one of the best hitters in baseball. He will definitely help the Dodgers and will still hit homeruns in a more-spacious Dodger Stadium. His defensive liabilities will show more but great hitting beats weak defense every time. A new environment will also contribute to what will likely be a tear in August and September. Manny always hits but he hits better when he’s happy and he should be happy in California. The Dodgers are also a better landing spot than the Marlins. There are more veterans-including former teammates Nomar and Derek Lowe-and a manager, former foe Joe Torre, who knows how to deal with larger-than-life players. Moreover, the Dodgers are a big-market team that can afford to sign Manny when he becomes a free agent. On top of that the Red Sox are paying the rest of his salary this year. Despite the crowded outfield situation at Chavez Ravine, Manny will not be sharing time with anyone.
Andy LaRoche has played only a little in the majors but has shown he can get on base and may develop power. In Pittsburgh, he will be able to play across the infield from his brother Adam who is the Bucs’ first baseman, currently on the DL.
Bryan Morris is a 21-year old right-hander who has only played in the minors but is doing well in A-ball after missing last season due to Tommy John Surgery. He was the Dodgers’ first-round pick in the 2006 draft and is considered a good prospect.
Although trading Ramirez was a pressing need, it is hard to say that the Red Sox are better, mostly because they are not. It is possible that the trade will inject some much-needed energy into an underperforming team but with a roster of veterans and professionals such as Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek, it is doubtful Manny’s antics were responsible for its woes. The trade failed to address the bullpen and catching situation which are both pressing needs this year and next. Still, a waiver deal or call-up can rectify the pitching situation. Justin Masterson is already in the pen and the team may call up Michael Bowden. If Bartolo Colon comes back, Clay Buchholz may be moved to relief duty where he might even be more effective. While the Red Sox are paying the rest of Manny’s salary this year, it is only money.
The Pirates have traded away their best players the past few weeks and have gotten even younger. While the moves signify rebuilding, it must be stated that the Pirates have been “rebuilding” for years. Maybe they will be buyers at the deadline. One would think that if they had this much talent to trade away, they would have enough to use and augment with a trade for a veteran in their own stretch run.