Marlins’ deal for Jose Reyes puts Hanley Ramirez in the spotlight

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Hanley Ramirez likes Jose Reyes just fine, but he’s made it clear that he sees himself as a shortstop. With the Marlins now reportedly having landed Reyes, Ramirez is going to be asked to change positions, probably to third base. How that plays with Hanley could well determine the course of the Marlins franchise for these next few years.

Make no mistake: Ramirez is an even more dynamic player than Reyes. He finished sixth in the NL in OPS in both 2008 and 2009. Reyes has never finished in the top 10. Adjusting for position, he placed second in the NL in offensive WAR in 2008 and ’09 and third in 2007. Reyes came in third last season, but his next highest finish with ninth in 2006. Overall, Ramirez is a career .306/.380/.506 hitter. Reyes, the older of the two players by a few months, comes in at .292/.341/.441.

Ramirez, though, has fallen far these last two years, and while Reyes has long battled leg injuries, Ramirez has struggled to overcome shoulder problems. After playing in at least 150 games each of his first four seasons, Ramirez dropped to 142 games in 2010 and 92 games during his extremely disappointing 2011 season.

If Ramirez goes to third base quietly and resumes playing more like he did three years ago, the Marlins will suddenly have one of the league’s most potent lineups:

SS Reyes
CF Emilio Bonifacio
3B Ramirez
RF Mike Stanton
1B Gaby Sanchez
LF Logan Morrison
C John Buck
2B Omar Infante

If Ramirez instead sulks and forces his way out, the Marlins aren’t likely to get nearly the return he would have brought as one of the game’s three most valuable properties in 2009. Oh, there will be offers: the Red Sox and Tigers would be crazy not to bid and the Brewers could try to cobble together an offer from what’s left of their minor league system. But the Marlins have a much better chance of finding their way back to the postseason with Ramirez and Reyes together than with Reyes and whatever Ramirez brings in return. Hopefully for them, Ramirez grows up a little, embraces the Marlins’ new commitment to winning and tries to become the best third baseman he can be. If it goes the other way, then the team isn’t likely to contend just yet.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.