If you are one of Hanley Ramirez's fantasy owners, you had better have unwavering faith in the Change of Scenery Doctrine, which dictates that a player struggling to produce and who is causing dissent in the clubhouse of his long time team will immediately start producing the second he lands in a new environment. That's what Hanley's owners are banking on with his trade to the Dodgers Tuesday night. Heck, it worked with Manny Ramirez. Why not try it with another gifted malcontent?
Ramirez hasn't been a star fantasy player for going on two years now, yet many still hold out the hope that it's not too late for him to rediscover his old superstud groove. This is in part due to his still relatively young age, and also partly because he had apparently worn out his welcome with the Marlins, and this could have been adversely affecting his play. It's certainly possible that Ramirez had simply gone on autopilot, having grown tired of having his soul wither away slowly from the years of wasting away for depressing Marlins teams. A move to a contender, and to a franchise that doesn't have quite the blatant contempt for its fan base, might rejuvenate him.
One encouraging part of this trade for keeper leaguers is that Ramirez will likely play a bunch of shortstop in the oncoming weeks, what with Dee Gordon out for six week and generally sucking when he does play. This, of course, would mean that Ramirez would retain his shortstop eligibility into next season, which is especially valuable if he does start to hit like 'twas 2009. Ramirez is on pace to eclipse the 20-home run mark, so his pop is making a small recovery after a total drought last year. That's at least a step toward realizing his comeback dreams.
If it is only a matter of Ramirez pulling his head out of his nether regions and caring about baseball again with the trade to a contending team, then this is a great development for his fantasy owners. However, how often is that actually the case? Many pundits said much the same thing about Colby Rasmus last year, but he hasn't exactly lit the world on fire since escaping Tony LaRussa's doghouse. Hitting behind Matt Kemp might help Ramirez get better pitches and improve his numbers; hitting in Dodger Stadium (not to mention playing more games in home run death traps Petco Park and AT&T Park) might not. We can't get inside the guy's head, so his fantasy owners need to hope that the Change of Scenery Doctrine holds true in this instance and HRam becomes a star again.
--Going the other way in the Ramirez trade is starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who edged his way into the Dodger rotation this season after Ted Lilly got hurt. Eovaldi started off well, with a lowly 2.35 ERA after five starts. Then he got walloped in back-to-back starts against the Giants and Mets, and has been a bit spotty in three starts since. He throws hard (93-97), and there's speculation (at least according to this Keith Law report) that once he develops a secondary pitch to get lefties out, he could become a very effective starter. For now, he's more valuable in keeper league formats, as his immediate value might be undermined by some inconsistent command and really crummy run support from his new team.
--The market for Zach Grienke has seemingly narrowed down to four teams: the Angels, Rangers, White Sox, and the Braves. The Rangers might be the likeliest candidate to go all out for him, in their quest to avoid becoming the Buffalo Bills of Major League Baseball. That might have been a dubious fit in the past for Grienke, but this year he is actually inducing way more ground balls than usual while cutting his home run rate, so Arlington's homer-friendly environs might not be so potentially deadly to him. A move to the Rangers would also be the best option from a run support perspective, as they feature arguably the best offense in the American League.
--The most hilarious rumor has the Orioles apparently in talks to acquire Twins disaster Francisco Liriano. If the O's actually give up anything of value to get Liriano, they're officially insane. Despite sitting in second place in the AL East, their Pythagorean Record is a miserable 43-55, meaning they're actually just a crappy (and very lucky) team masquerading as a contender. To give up even a B-grade prospect for a pitcher who hasn't been effective in two years would be madness.
Of course, the Orioles aren't the only team allegedly in on the Liriano sweepstakes. The Angels are apparently showing interest, something that must have the Rangers grinning the biggest bleep-eating grin ever. Liriano has shown flashes of his old self in the past month, but flashes have a way of tricking people in terrible ways. At 28, Liriano could still come back and be the old effective strikeout artist he used to be. However, with his walk rate still in the fives, count me as an unbeliever. He's one step away from becoming Jonathan Sanchez. The Royals pitcher, not the guy who clinched the NL West for the Giants in 2010.