Change In Scenery: Ichiro And Hanley
With the trade deadline approaching in four days, organizations all around the league are busy fielding and making phone call after phone call after phone call. Potential contenders are in search of the final, missing piece to their playoff puzzle, while those teams who are out of the division and wild card races attempt to dump large salaries in exchange for future prospects.
There have already been a number of trades before the deadline date that have turned some playoff bubble teams into World Series contenders, and visa versa. But, despite all of the media attention that has surrounded trade talks and rumors, there were two specific trades that were executed so far that have sent struggling superstars out of the franchises in which they have been with throughout their entire careers.
Ichiro: From Seattle to the Yankees
In a season where Mike Trout is being talked about as potentially winning both the Rookie of the Year and AL MVP honors, Ichiro gets traded. Why is that correlated, you ask? It’s because Ichiro was the last player to accomplish the remarkable feat in 2001, when his league leading 242 hits and 56 stolen bases garnered him both awards. Throughout his twelve-year tenure in the States, Ichiro has been one of the more consistent hitters in baseball. From his rookie year in 2001 through 2010, Ichiro was an All-Star in every one of those ten seasons, won a Gold Glove in every one of those ten seasons, and lead the entire league in hits in seven out of those ten seasons (in the other three, he finished in second place). Despite his tremendous, high rate consistency in his first ten seasons, the only thing consistent about Ichiro in 2011 and 2012 has been his decline rate. Last year marked the first of Ichiro’s career in which he did not reach the 200-hit or .300 avg. milestones. This year, he is currently on pace to repeat his 2011 numbers at the plate, while also showing signs of slowed base stealing production.
At 38 years of age, it is unfair to expect the former Seattle spark plug to swap 40 bases again, but a move to New York may be exactly what Ichiro needed to rejuvenate his bat. Firstly, he will most likely bat leadoff while being protected by Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano, which will allow him to ultimately see better pitching in lieu of pitchers not wanting any men on base for the sluggers. Secondly, he moves from a last place team to a first place team that already has their eyes on the American League pennant. Almost every player needs a change in scenery at some point in their career, and for Ichiro, who has never won a ring, this might be the perfect time.
Hanley: From Miami to the Dodgers
During one of the most memorable offseasons in recent memory, the center of the drama revolved around the Miami Marlins. They brought in Ozzie Guillen to manage the club, All-Star closer Heath Bell, Batting Champion Jose Reyes, built a brand new stadium, changed their name from Florida to Miami, and remodeled their entire uniform. But, despite all of the NEW additions to Marlin camp, the center piece of Jeff Loria’s project was the face of his franchise, Hanley Ramirez. Unfortunately for Loria, his project tanked big time, forcing him to deal Hanley out of the Sunshine State. And even more unfortunate for Loria, after he dealt Ramirez to Los Angeles, he did not have a replacement at third base. Two weeks prior to the Hanley trade, the Marlins dealt their former first round pick and one the organization’s top prospect, third baseman Matt Dominguez, to the Astros in exchange for a two-month Carlos Lee rental. They also got rid of utility infielder and former All-Star Omar Infante just a day before dumping Hanley.
On the other side of the ball, the Dodgers receive Hanley Ramirez, also a former Rookie of the Year recipient and three-time All Star. But, like Ichiro, the previous two seasons have not been ones that Ramirez would like to remember. After being plagued by a shoulder injury in 2010, Ramirez never seemed to regain full health in 2011 as he reinjured his shoulder trying to make a diving catch, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. Despite notions of being fully recovered, his 2012 numbers mirror his sub-par 2011 season thus far. Hanley has already said that he does not mind playing short or third, leaving Don Mattingly with a decision when Dee Gordon returns from the disabled list. With Hanley set to make a total of more than $30 million over the next two seasons, the Dodgers better hope that a change in scenery will also help the former All-Star regain his 2009 form, for LA is not in any position to waste more salary space.