Hooray for Manny-wood

July, 31, 2008

Just when the trade deadline looked boring, it wasn't.

Manny Ramirez has talked his way out of Boston and will head to the Dodgers, where he'll play for two months before declaring for free agency and putting himself on the open market (giving the Dodgers two draft picks in the process). In return, the Red Sox get Jason Bay from the Pirates and Pittsburgh receives outfielder Brandon Moss and reliever Craig Hansen from the Red Sox and third baseman Andy LaRoche and minor league pitcher Bryan Morris from the Dodgers.

Ramirez has spent 7½ years in Boston, racking up 274 homers and 868 RBIs while solidifying his credentials as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. In mixed fantasy leagues, unfortunately, this probably represents a decrease in Ramirez's value. He moves from Fenway Park and its short left-field porch to Dodger Stadium, which is baseball's worst home run park so far in 2008, according to ESPN.com's Park Factor. And of course, he's moving from a lineup that features his co-masher, David Ortiz, to an inconsistent Dodgers offense of which he will be expected to be the centerpiece. Of course, it seems as though the Dodgers have an awful lot of outfielders at this point: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre come to mind. The fantasy values of two of those guys (Ethier and Jones?) could be about to take a serious hit, though we need to hear Joe Torre talk about how he'll juggle that five-man group. There's also some concern about the fact that the Dodgers clubhouse is often a very angry and sulky place and that Ramirez isn't the greatest influence in the world. However, in NL-only leagues, clearly you're spending whatever FAAB money you have left to get Manny.

Manny's average versus the NL West

Manny Ramirez heads to the NL West with some pretty nasty pitchers' parks. How has he fared against the NL West teams and their pitchers? There are some mixed results here.

Versus current NL West pitchers
San Diego.240
San Francisco.242
Versus the NL West
San Diego.333
San Francisco.278

Bay, Boston's new left fielder, sees his fantasy value spike a bit, though he doesn't seem a likely candidate to fill Ramirez's shoes as Boston's cleanup hitter. It's likelier that he's either the fifth- or sixth-place hitter for the Red Sox, with J.D. Drew hitting second or third, Kevin Youkilis hitting second or third, Ortiz possibly hitting fourth and Mike Lowell possibly hitting fifth. But as a righty hitter in Fenway, Bay figures to see an increase in homers if he reacts well to being in the spotlight for the first time in his career, and considering the Sox are a far better team than the Pirates with a far longer lineup, he should see more RBI opportunities. Now, let's not get carried away: We all know Bay isn't Manny, and in fact, the idea that these two players could essentially be swapped for one another would've seemed insane last year, when Bay was hitting .247 with a .746 OPS. (In fairness to the Sox, Bay is under their control for 2009.) If you're in an AL-only league, though, I'd still say you have to consider spending your entire FAAB budget on Bay, unless David Price is still available in your league, because I don't see any name as big as Bay's making it through waivers to get traded from the NL to the AL in August.

Among the prospects the Pirates get in this deal for Bay, Andy LaRoche is the most interesting name for this season. He has done pretty much everything he needs to do at Triple-A (including a .452 on-base percentage in '08), but hit only .226 with the Dodgers' big club and couldn't assert himself over underwhelming Blake DeWitt at third base. With Pittsburgh, I have to believe he's got a decent chance to come to the majors right away, where he'd be united with his brother, Adam LaRoche. Jose Bautista, the Pirates' current starter at third, has hit .225 in July and .206 since the All-Star break, and is nobody's idea of a third baseman of the future. If you've been muddling along with the Scott Rolens and Pedro Felizes of the world at third, pay attention to whether the Pirates decide to use the younger LaRoche right away. In the longer term, though, the move is a bit curious because the Pirates have long-term third-base prospects such as Neil Walker (Triple-A) and Pedro Alvarez ('08 first-rounder) in their system. (This could mean that the organization might in fact be souring on Walker.)

Could Moss turn out to be another David Murphy, whom the Red Sox traded to Texas in the Eric Gagne trade at last year's trade deadline? It's possible, and Boston beat reporters consider Moss' emergence as a legit fourth outfielder one of the season's nicest surprises in Beantown. Moss could very well wind up starting in left for the Pirates, and if he does, he'd be worth a look in deeper leagues. But realize that Pittsburgh also has both Nyjer Morgan and Andrew McCutchen waiting in the wings. Hansen is a 2005 first-rounder who has struggled badly in a set-up role and definitely isn't fantasy-relevant, and Morris, Baseball America's No. 12 prospect in the Dodgers organization when the season began, has a No. 3 starter's ceiling and is currently at the Double-A level.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.



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