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MI -- When the Marlins signed Hanley Ramirez to a six-year, $70 million contract extension in 2008, he became the "face of the franchise."
The organization maintained that stance, even after becoming the talk of the Winter Meetings in December, when they signed free agents Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle for a combined $191 million.
Even when those moves were announced, the organization maintained they were building around Ramirez.
On Wednesday, the Marlins decided to give the organization a new look.
Ramirez, hitting .246 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs, and lefty reliever Randy Choate were traded to the Dodgers for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and righty pitching prospect Scott McGough.
Who the Marlins got
While the key to the Hanley Ramirez deal may have been the savings in salary, the Marlins did get two young arms in return for the talented, if enigmatic, infielder.
Nathan Eovaldi is the one to watch. No longer a true prospect because of the big league time he's logged, the right-hander began the year ranked No. 70 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list and No. 2 on the Dodgers Top 20. An 11th-round pick in the 2008 Draft, Eovaldi had Tommy John surgery in his junior year of high school, which undoubtedly impacted his Draft stock. So did some signability concerns, but the Dodgers were able to lure him away from the University of Texas for $250,000.
Eovaldi rushed back for his senior season of high school and his velocity came all the way back, and then some, once he turned pro. He's touched triple digits in the past and he'll sit comfortably in the mid-90s as a starting pitcher. More of a thrower than a pitcher coming out of high school, he's fine-tuned his slider to make it a tight breaking ball with a lot of tilt. He tends to throw strikes and is far ahead of the curve at age 22, already with more than 90 Major League innings to his credit.
"He commands the zone well for a young kid, competes his butt off and isn't afraid of anything or anybody," Dodgers assistant general manager Logan White said before the season. "I think you're looking at a kid that, as long as he stays healthy, should be a heck of a big leaguer for a while.
"In terms of makeup, he's probably as good as anyone I've ever signed, and that includes [Clayton] Kershaw. His makeup is just fantastic."
Scott McGough is the other pitcher in the deal and he's just getting his career started. A 2011 fifth-round pick out of the University of Oregon, the right-hander is a reliever all the way. The Dodgers sent him to the Class A Advanced California League, where he's struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings. He'll throw his fastball in the 91-to-95-mph range. His secondary stuff isn't as good as his fastball, with his slider being his best other option. He's not overly physical, but his athleticism and arm strength allow him to succeed. He's struggled with his command at times, walking 4.7 per nine. While he is very competitive, scouts don't think he'll be a closer down the line, with upside as a setup or middle man or a future as a situational reliever.
-- Jonathan Mayo
Eovaldi will make an immediate impact, as he will start on Saturday against the Padres.
The Dodgers are picking up all of the remainder of Ramirez's contract, which runs through 2014. The 28-year-old is making $15 million this year, $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014.
"First of all, I want to thank the Marlins for the chance they gave me to play in the big leagues," Ramirez said. "They believed in my talent and had me here for seven years. They're always going to be my family. This is one of the hardest days of my life for me and my family."
With a 45-52 record, the Marlins have struggled to live up to expectations in a season when they felt they had a playoff contender.
So rather than stay the course, the team is changing the mood and players in the clubhouse.
Manager Ozzie Guillen acknowledges that the team was built with Ramirez as a centerpiece.
"Some people have to take responsibility, and I will be the first one to take responsibility," Guillen said. "If we aren't playing well, I blame myself. If we don't play right, I don't think I managed the right way, or we didn't coach the right way.
"But in the meanwhile, when you have a team for so many years, and you see day in, day out, the same way. How many hitting coaches, pitching coaches and managers went through this organization with the same players? They look at it. Maybe we have to go a different way with different faces. Sometimes that will work."
Guillen noted there are plenty of teams who went in different directions, traded key players and got better. He was in that situation with the White Sox, and he noted Tampa Bay's success.
"They traded key players, and they got better," Guillen said. "Hopefully with the people we brought here, we'll get better."
Choate, meanwhile, is a southpaw specialist who is eligible to become a free agent after the season.
From the Dodgers, the Marlins received Eovaldi, a right-hander who has pitched better than his 1-6 record and 4.15 ERA suggest.
The trade to Los Angeles ends Ramirez's roller-coaster seven-year stint with the Marlins.
Ramirez was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2006. He's a three-time All-Star shortstop, and in '09, he won the NL batting title with a .342 average.
During the first five years of his career, Ramirez, who has speed and power, was on a path to becoming perhaps the greatest player in Marlins franchise history.
In 2009, his numbers were staggering across the board: 197 hits, 42 doubles, 24 home runs, 106 RBIs and 101 runs scored. He won the Silver Slugger for NL shortstops, and he was second to Albert Pujols in the MVP Award voting.
Since then, Ramirez has had his struggles. In 2010, he batted .300, but his production fell to 21 home runs and 76 RBIs.
Last season, he was bothered by a left shoulder injury, which required surgery. He finished with a .243 average, 10 home runs and 45 RBIs in 92 games.
"Almost seven years in the big leagues and [I have been] struggling [for] two years," said Ramirez. "I know a lot of guys wish they could do that -- play seven and struggle two.
"I've got a long career in front of me. I think right now I'm going to get back to what I used to be. I'm going to keep working hard and I'm going to be a free agent in two years -- anything can happen."
As an organization, the Marlins' front office has been as baffled as their players, manager, coaching staff and fans that the club has yet to click.
Management made a July 4 trade to acquire Carlos Lee in hopes of boosting a sluggish lineup. When the team didn't make up ground, 19 days later, they traded Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers for three prospects, including Jacob Turner.
Now, Ramirez and Choate are gone.
"This is a difficult decision," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "It's part of our restructuring. I think both of these trades that we made -- we're talking about high-caliber players. Hanley Ramirez is a unique physical talent. He always has been. Why he's hitting .246? We haven't quite figured it out. We think it's time for a fresh change for Hanley, and it's time for a fresh start for the Marlins without him.
"I hate to sound so black and white, but we weren't winning, and he wasn't producing up to the level that he expected. It's time to move on, for both of us. I don't see it in a negative sense. I see it as a positive for both parties."
With the arrival of Reyes this year, Ramirez moved from shortstop to third base. Even that was filled with controversy, as initially Ramirez was reluctant to make the switch.
Ramirez recently had some more adversity, when he punched a cooling fan out of frustration in the dugout on July 8 in St. Louis. He received two stitches and returned to the lineup after the All-Star break. However, Ramirez missed four starts recently due to inflammation in his hand, the result of his failure to take his medication.
Ramirez returned to the starting lineup on Tuesday night against the Braves. He committed an error in the first inning that led to an unearned run, and he struck out looking in the ninth inning for the final out in the Braves' 4-3 win.
Behavior and performance were two reasons the Marlins dealt Ramirez.
"I'm just honest. That's why I get in trouble," Ramirez said. "I can't tell you something to your face and then go behind your back. I can't do that. If I see something wrong, I'll come to your face. I don't think so. ... A lot of things happened in the clubhouse with somebody else that never came out. A lot of things I did were on the street right away. I can't control that. How did that happen? I don't know. I just have to move forward, go to L.A. and do what I didn't here, just win championships.
"I didn't do what they expected me to do. I think that's what happened, in my opinion. I don't think they just gave up on me. I didn't do what I was supposed to do on the field."
Removing a major piece of their roster clearly will change the mood of the Marlins' clubhouse.
"The only thing that makes the clubhouse better is winning," Guillen said. "Don't blame Hanley. It's not Hanley's fault that we are where we are. It's all those guys fault that we are where we are. Everybody should be pointing their finger at themselves.
"Now, is it going to be better without Hanley, we'll have to see how they play. If they are happy that Hanley's not here, that's [garbage]. They should look at themselves in the mirror."