Dodgers swing for fences, land Hanley Ramirez from Marlins

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The Dodgers are flush with cash and aren’t afraid to use it. As first reported by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, they acquired third baseman Hanley Ramirez and left-hander Randy Choate from the Marlins late Tuesday night in return for right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough.

It’s a modest price to play for a guy who ranked as one of the game’s top three properties a couple of years back. Ramirez was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2006, and he received MVP votes each of the following three years, finishing in second place in 2009 at the still tender age of 25.

Ramirez has gone downhill since. After a modestly disappointing 2010 in which he hit .300/.378/.475, he fell off to .243/.333/.379 in 92 games in 2011. This year, he’s hit .246/.322/.428 with 14 homers and 48 RBI through 93 games.

The Dodgers will hope the trade is just the kick in the pants that Ramirez needs. His attitude deteriorated with his performance in Miami, and his occasional lack of hustle was frustrating. A new start might do wonders for him. At 28, it’s hardly too late for him to return to playing like a superstar.

And Ramirez is getting paid like a star, which is why the Dodgers didn’t have to part with all that much talent to get him. He’ll make $15.5 million next year and $16 million in 2014 before becoming a free agent. With that kind of salary, he’ll be counted on to produce a bunch of runs while likely batting fifth behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the order.

The Dodgers will have the option of playing Ramirez either third base or shortstop. Third base makes sense as his long-term position in Los Angeles, but since Dee Gordon has been a big disappointment at shortstop this year and is injured besides, it would make sense to return Hanley to his old position for the short term.

Along with Ramirez, the Dodgers are getting a useful specialist in Choate. Usually asked to face just one or two lefties at a time, the 36-year-old southpaw had a 2.49 ERA in 25 1/3 innings for the Marlins this year. Left-handers were hitting .150 in 60 at-bats against him. Last year, they hit .145 in 69 at-bats.

While it wasn’t the huge return their fans would have preferred, the Marlins got a solid starter in here in Eovaldi. The polished 22-year-old was 1-6 for the Dodgers this season, but that was mostly due to poor run support. He had a 4.15 ERA, and he allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts. He could slide right into Miami’s rotation, and his presence may make it easier for the team to part with Josh Johnson next.

McGough, 22, had a 3.99 ERA and a 48/26 K/BB ratio in 47 1/3 innings out of the pen for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this season. He was the Dodgers’ fifth-round pick last year.

Major League Baseball issues a statement on Trump’s latest travel ban order

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Last night the Trump Administration announced a new batch of restrictions on people traveling from foreign countries, following up on its previous travel ban on persons from six predominately Muslim countries. The latest restriction could potentially touch on Major League Baseball, however, as it includes Venezuela.

The restriction for Venezuela is far narrower than the others, only blocking visas for government officials on business or tourist travel from Venezuela. There has been considerable uncertainty about the scope and enforcement mechanisms for the previous travel ban, however, and the entire matter is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. With that uncertainty, many around Major League Baseball have asked how and if the league or the union might respond to an order that, while seemingly not facially impacting baseball personnel or their families, could impact them in practice.

To that end, Major League Baseball issued a statement this afternoon, saying “MLB is aware of the travel ban that involves Venezuela and we have contacted the appropriate government officials to confirm that it will not have an effect on our players traveling to the U.S.” It is not clear whether it has, in fact, received such confirmation or if its an ongoing dialog or what.

Again: the ban shouldn’t impact baseball players or their families based on its terms. But based on what we saw with the enforcement of the previous one — and based the unexpected consequences many major leaguers faced when international travel restrictions were tightened following the 9/11 attacks — it’s only prudent for Major League Baseball to make such inquiries and get whatever assurances it can well in advance of next February when players from Venezuela will be coming back to the United States for spring training.

 

Aaron Judge breaks rookie home run record with 49th, 50th blasts

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge made history today, hitting his 49th and 50th home runs, tying and then breaking the rookie record previously held by Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics.

Judge’s first dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. His second came in the bottom of the seventh against Trevor Cahill.

McGwire set his record in 1987, needing 151 games to do it. Judge hit his 50th in his 150th game of the season. He has five more games after today to add to that mark. Through his latest at bat in this game Judge is hitting .283/.417/.620 on the year with 50 HR, 108 RBI, 124 runs scored and 119 walks. Given Judge’s strong finish to the season, the AL MVP race should come down to a contest between him and Jose Altuve. It’s hard to argue against either one.

Here’s Judge’s first bomb:

And here’s the second: