The trading block has been busy this week, with several contenders making moves to strengthen themselves for a potential postseason run. Late Tuesday night the Dodgers joined the club, sending RHPs Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough to the Marlins for 3B/SS Hanley Ramirez and LHP Randy Choate. The Dodgers acquire a mercurial but supremely talented left side infielder which they desperately needed–Juan Uribe, Adam Kennedy, Dee Gordon, and Justin Sellers haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire–and a good left-handed reliever. Both should substantially aid Los Angeles’ title chances this season.
However, this being Seedlings to Stars, let’s focus on the two prospects involved. The big prize for the Marlins in this trade was Eovaldi, the 22 year old right-hander who made his Major League debut last season and has pitched capably for the Dodgers in 2012 with a 4.15 ERA in 10 starts while splitting time between the big club and AA. Eovaldi, ranked 2nd in John Sickels’ preseason Dodgers top 20 prospects, is not an elite prospect but profiles as a solid big league starter. He throws a hard mid 90s fastball that Fangraphs’ Mike Newman reports has touched 98 this season and complements it with a plus mid 80s slider. The most common knock on Eovaldi is that he has no trustworthy third pitch; he throws his curveball and changeup a combined 11 percent of the time and will need to develop a true third offering to reach his potential as a #2 or #3 starter. The hard-throwing righty could also stand to strike a few more hitters out (only 5.43 K/9 in 2012), something he should be capable of with a fastball like his. Eovaldi is good enough to be in the majors right now but needs that all-important third offering to become truly effective.
Though Eovaldi was the biggest acquistion for the Marlins, right-hander McGough is more than just a throw-in. Drafted out of Oregon in the 5th round of the 2011 draft, the wiry (6′, 170) McGough throws a good mid 90s fastball with late life and a solid slider which he uses to induce swings and misses. There have been some reports of a change-up, but McGough’s future seems to be in the bullpen–his role in college–where a third pitch is less important. McGough, like most high-level college draftees, cruised through his first taste of pro ball in 2011, posting a 2.21 ERA and 11.07 K/9 in 20.1 innings in A ball. The young righty has experienced more difficulty in 2012 at High A, with a 3.99 ERA and 4.94 BB/9 in 47.1 innings though he is still striking hitters out on a consistent basis (9.13 K/9). If he makes a few adjustments, McGough could end up in a major league bullpen.
As far as how the trade effects the two players, in Eovaldi’s case, the answer seems relatively clear: with the hole in rotation left by the recently departed Anibal Sanchez, Eovaldi will step in and become a full-time big-league starter. Miami’s park is still very new, but evidence so far shows it be be roughly neutral on runs prevented, so Eovaldi will get no help there. The NL East is a stronger offensive division than the NL West, meaning tougher opponents for the new Marlin, but the most important thing is that he gets consistent starts. Overall the trade is a slight positive for Eovaldi.
It is less clear how it affects McGough. The Marlins’ bullpen is not phenomenal, but McGough is a long ways still from the majors and needs to improve before he can think about pitching in Miami. For the former Duck, the trade is probably a wash.
Though there has been some talk of another “fire sale” by the Marlins, I don’t think that this trade (nor, frankly, the Sanchez and Infante deal) fits in that mold. Ramirez had clearly warn out his welcome in Miami and was not adapting well to playing third and Choate, while solid, is an expendable piece. In return they got a MLB-ready young starter who still has room for growth and a moderate-upside bullpen arm. There is always danger in trading for prospects, but given Ramirez’s problems with the organization and his low level of play the past two seasons, the Marlins did just fine.