Dodgers liking Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, Luis Cruz at third

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When the Dodgers decided to put Hanley Ramirez back at shortstop upon acquiring from the Marlins, it had the looks of a temporary move, what with Dee Gordon set up as a long-term option at the position. However, as things stand now, the Dodgers are leaning towards leaving Ramirez at shortstop in 2013 and going with Luis Cruz at third base.

“Did you watch Cruz play,” GM Ned Colletti said.

It’s true that Cruz was a revelation after moving into the starting lineup. The 28-year-old hit .297/.322/.431 with six homers and 40 RBI in 283 at-bats. Prior to 2012, he had a .221/.275/.260 line and no homers in 154 major league at-bats.

The Dodgers will have a crowd of infielders under contract. Besides the likely starters in Ramirez, Cruz and second baseman Mark Ellis, the team also has Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto and Juan Uribe all entering the final year of multiyear deals. Odds are that someone from that group — most likely Uribe — won’t fit on the Opening Day roster.

And it surely means that Gordon, who was handed a starting job and the leadoff spot this spring, will open next year in Triple-A.

Still, there’s one very interesting aspect to all of this, that being that Cruz is almost surely a better defensive shortstop than Ramirez. It was his primary position throughout his minor league career, and he had a reputation as a good-glove, no-hit guy in his younger days.

Given that Gordon still projects as the Dodgers’ long-term shortstop, it’d make a lot of sense to put Cruz back at shortstop to begin next year and let Hanley settle back in at third base. The Dodgers, though, seem content to wait and cross that bridge later.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.

 

There is a Tyler glut in baseball

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It’s a slow news morning — Miguel Montero is gone and everyone else is quiet — so you should go read Tyler Kepner’s latest column over at the New York Times. It’s, appropriately, about Tylers.

There are a lot of them in baseball now, Tyler notes. No Larrys and hardly any Eddies or Bobs. This obviously tracks the prevalence of the name Tyler in the population at large and the declines in Larrys, Eddies and Bobs. It’s the kind of thing I imagine we’ve all noticed from time to time, and it’s fun to do it in baseball. For his part, Kepner tries to make an all-Tyler All-Star team. The results are sort of sad.

There are always one or two Craigs floating around baseball from time to time, but not many more than that. We got a Hall of Famer recently, so that’s pretty nice. There will likely be fewer over time, as Craig — never even a top-30 name in popularity — is now near historic lows. I’m not complaining, though. I never once had to go by “Craig C.” in class to differentiate myself from other Craigs. Our biggest problem is being called Greg. We tend to let it pass. Craigs are used to it by now.