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Insider

Digesting the Cole Hamels deal

7/25/2012

With the trade deadline less than a week away, there was a flurry of activity overnight.

Decision: The Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a six-year deal for more than $140 million with Cole Hamels, the second-largest deal in MLB history for any pitcher.

Digestion: This is an extraordinary course alteration for the Phillies, who increased their valuation of Hamels by about 70-75 percent in less than a calendar year. They might've been able to sign him for $100 million last fall or $115 million in the spring.

But as they waited, and as Hamels got closer and closer to free agency, the price tag rocketed upward.

The good news for the Phillies is that they were able to retain one of the premier pitchers in baseball.

"I don't think we've seen the best of him yet," said a rival NL pitching coach. "Every time we see him, he's figured out something else."

The concern for the Phillies is that their credit-card bills are mounting. Depending on the structure of Hamels' contract, Philadelphia could owe about $95 million to four players for the 2013 season -- Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Hamels.

Dodgers deal for Hanley

Decision: The Los Angeles Dodgers traded for third baseman Hanley Ramirez and pitcher Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins, assuming all of the $38.5 million still owed to Ramirez while sending pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and minor leaguer Scott McGough to Miami.

Digestion: The Marlins' rebranding was baseball's biggest story of the offseason. A new ballpark, new colors, new uniforms, new players, new hope, a new direction.

But now they have dumped four veteran players in two days, with Ramirez and Choate following Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, and rival executives say others are available, as well. Josh Johnson could be next to go, at a time when the Texas Rangers are fishing for starting pitching, and there is good, sound baseball reasoning for all of this. The Marlins have a struggling team, and they can turn over their roster and get talented, cheap players in return.

However, you would have thought that as part of the Miami rebranding, the Marlins would have endeavored to avoid a massive sell-off of players in the first year in their new ballpark. Now, for some would-be ticket buyers, the offseason roster restructuring will just look like a bottle of snake oil given the franchise's history of fire sales.

Some rival executives thought the Marlins would need to eat a whole bunch of the $38.5 million owed to Ramirez to move him, but the Dodgers agreed to absorb his salary, which is what L.A.'s new ownership can do best these days given the team's thin farm system.

It's not clear yet whether the Dodgers will ask Ramirez to play third or shortstop, but some teams strongly believe that Ramirez is unworkable as a third baseman; rather, they think he is much more at ease -- albeit limited -- at shortstop. Ramirez gives the Dodgers another power hitter, but it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the close-knit L.A. clubhouse.

The Marlins' franchise player is now a Dodger.

From ESPN Stats & Information, more on Hanley:

Even with his production down in 2011 and '12, Ramirez still represents a significant offensive upgrade regardless of the position he plays.

Dodgers' third basemen this season (MLB rank)

BA: .249 (20th)

OPS: .679 (23rd)

HR: 4 (28th)

Dodgers' shortstops this season (MLB rank)

BA: .232 (23rd)

OPS: .604 (25th)

HR: 4 (T-18th)

Another reason Ramirez was likely brought in is to provide power to a team that ranks last in MLB with 60 home runs. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are the only Dodgers with more than seven home runs this season. Ramirez has hit 14.

Pirates get a pitcher

Decision: The Pittsburgh Pirates trade for Wandy Rodriguez, with the Houston Astros assuming a whole bunch of dollars in the deal.

Digestion: For Pittsburgh, there is a moderate gamble that Rodriguez will bounce back from recent performances. His fastball velocity is down, and he's allowed 12 earned runs in 16 innings in his last three starts. The Pirates are banking on the possibility that Rodriguez's decline is a case of a veteran pitcher affected by discouraging surroundings (and not-so-good teammates). Maybe a pennant race will energize and improve Wandy.

For Houston, the Astros' purge of players continues, a shift almost unprecedented in the last 80 years. The highest-paid Astro who was with Houston at the outset of this season is now Jed Lowrie, who makes $1.25 million.

Rival evaluators believe that in each of these deals -- for Carlos Lee, Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon -- the Astros are eating a lot of dollars and acquiring players who will help organizational depth and, at the same time, won't make a significant impact in the big leagues. In other words, Grade C+/B- prospects.

The Astros had the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, they're positioned to have the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, and they may be picking at or near the front of the draft for years to come.

From ESPN Stats & Info, highest Astros salaries on Opening Day 2012 (all traded)

Carlos Lee: $19M

Brett Myers: $12M

Wandy Rodriguez: $10.5M

Brandon Lyon: $5.5M

J.A. Happ: $2.35M

A bad break for A-Rod

Development: Alex Rodriguez suffered a broken hand and will be out six to eight weeks.

Digestion: Look, if this happened three or four years ago, this would be an enormous loss. The 37-year-old Rodriguez is now more of a complementary player for the New York Yankees, but he still ranks among the top half of third basemen in the majors. Eric Chavez can absorb some of the at-bats at third base, but presumably, this will put the Yankees in the market for someone who can play third base.

An interesting name to keep an eye on: Chase Headley, a player the Yankees could use in their 1B-3B-DH mix if they're willing to pay the Padres' asking price.

Elsewhere

Zack Greinke, one of the best available starters, took the mound on Tuesday with a lot of scouts watching and pitched well. With the signing of Hamels, Greinke now is poised to be the belle of the ball in the free-agent pitching market in the fall, as the preeminent hurler available. However, there will be some big-market teams that will not engage the right-hander, given their concerns about how he would fit into their particular market.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Greinke pitched:

A. Greinke threw his slider only 10 times, but he got three strikeouts with it and didn't allow the Phillies to put one in play.

B. Phillies hitters were 0-for-13 in at-bats ending with a low pitch from Greinke, including all five of his strikeouts. Sixty percent of his pitches were down in the zone or below it, a little more than his league-leading season average of 59 percent.

C. Greinke threw nearly 80 percent of his pitches to lefties in the outer third of the zone, or further outside, his highest percentage in the last four seasons in a start in which he faced more than one lefty. Phillies lefties were 3-for-14 overall against Greinke but 1-for-11 in at-bats ending with an outside pitch.

• The Cubs' efforts to trade Ryan Dempster are being stifled, and Matt Garza's injury may wreck Chicago's efforts to trade the AL East veteran. So it may turn out to be that Paul Maholm is the most marketable Cubs pitcher. He doesn't have any no-trade protection, he has a team-friendly $6.5 million option for next season, and he's throwing really well; Maholm has allowed four earned runs in his last 38.1 innings.

• The Arizona Diamondbacks are on a roll and got a nice game from Joe Saunders on Tuesday night.

• Wrote here Tuesday about the possible downside to the Ichiro deal, but in talking with rival evaluators Tuesday, many loved the deal for the Yankees. They believe that all the things Ichiro does well -- his defense, his baserunning -- still place him among the better right fielders in the majors. Now, for little cost, the Yankees will have him in left field.

Ichiro made concessions to play with the Yankees, writes David Waldstein. The Yankees made the Ichiro deal with an eye on the luxury tax threshold.

By The Numbers

From ESPN Stats & Info

3: First-pitch home runs allowed by Cliff Lee on Tuesday, the most by any pitcher in a game this season.

5: Pinch-hit home runs for Jordanny Valdespin, a Mets single-season record and most in MLB this season.

8: Home runs on pitches out of the strike zone this season for Miguel Cabrera, most in the majors.

43: Percent of pitches chased out of the strike zone by Josh Hamilton this season, the highest percentage in the majors.

2,000: Career strikeouts for Alex Rodriguez, the fifth player ever to reach that mark.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Oakland Athletics just never lose, and they continue to scope out the landscape for shortstop/third base help.

2. The Tampa Bay Rays acquired Ryan Roberts on Tuesday.

3. Carl Crawford was dropped in the Boston Red Sox lineup and then removed for defense. You have to wonder if, at some point, he decides to just have the needed Tommy John surgery and focus on 2013.

4. Pay less attention to what the Seattle Mariners say and more to what they do, writes Geoff Baker.

5. The Toronto Blue Jays may or may not be in the Josh Johnson conversation.

6. Some rival evaluators believe that the Twins' best hope for getting decent return on Francisco Liriano has passed after he struggled in his most recent outing.

7. The Milwaukee Brewers need to start over, writes Michael Hunt.

8. The Los Angeles Angels continue to have starting pitching woes. You have to believe they'll add somebody before the deadline.

9. Ryan Dempster wants to be a Dodger; he's not sure if he wants to be a Brave.

10. The Braves are considering other options.

Dings and dents

1. Jason Giambi is ailing.

2. Pablo Sandoval will be down a few days.

3. A couple of Angels are feeling better.

4. Lance Berkman has a knee bruise.

5. In the end, Jason Kendall retired.

6. Roy Oswalt expects to be able to pitch.

NL West notes

Brandon Crawford walked it off.

Clayton Kershaw was knocked around, and the Dodgers are 2 1/2 games out of first place.

NL Central notes

• Remember how the Cincinnati Reds came into the second half poised to face the easiest schedule in the majors? Well, they are feasting, even without Joey Votto.

James McDonald found a few positives in his loss.

• The St. Louis Cardinals battled back.

• The Astros' decline is precipitious.

NL East notes

• The Phillies put together a huge comeback.

Gio Gonzalez went back to being Gio.

• The New York Mets have fallen and they can't get up.

Tim Hudson was really good.

AL East notes

Clay Buchholz stepped up in a big way.

• A homestand started badly for the Baltimore Orioles.

Brett Cecil was solid, but the Jays lost.

The Rays and Jeremy Hellickson came up with a badly needed victory.

AL Central notes

• It's been a massive comeback year for Adam Dunn, who hit his 30th homer.

From ESPN Stats and Info: His eight 30-home runs seasons since 2004 are tied with Mark Teixeira and Albert Pujols for the most in that span.

Dunn had rave reviews of his leadoff hitter after Chicago's latest victory.

• The Royals' Will Smith was dominant.

• Detroit's new lineup fell flat. Omar Infante feels like he's at home, he says.

• The Cleveland Indians are at a tipping point, and they squeezed out a big win, as Paul Hoynes writes. This series may determine the direction of the team, says GM Chris Antonetti.

Josh Willingham flexed his muscles, but the Twins lost.

AL West notes

Felix Hernandez was really good against a good team.

Joe Nathan let a victory get away.

Other stuff

• Brian Cashman ripped a therapist.

• Davey Johnson continues to hold the reins on his starting pitchers.

Danny Espinosa has been at ease switching to shortstop.

• The Marlins' GM says the veteran players have crapped all over themselves.

• Tim Flannery's long, strange trip has taken another turn.

And today will be better than yesterday.