The Milwaukee Brewers have finally kicked off their 2015 Trade Season. It seems as though we have been talking about a rebuild since the day this mostly dreadful season began, and it has been a long wait for those who have been conjecturing about trade possibilities for months. Doug Melvin’s first trade of the 2015 season has sent third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for minor league RHP Yhonathan Barrios.
The Pirates had already been rumored to be looking for an infielder after Josh Harrison went down with injury. The need became more pressing, however, when Jordy Mercer was lost for six weeks after being injured on a hard slide last week by the Brewers own Carlos Gomez. Ramirez will now serve as the Pirates third baseman, likely sliding Korean import Jung-Ho Kang over to shortstop.
Ramirez started off very slowly this season, hitting for only a .593 OPS through the first month of the season. He has been rather hot of late, however, hitting .352/.422/.500 in July, good enough for a .394 wOBA and 151 wRC+. Ramirez has shown much more power this season than last, as well; his Isolated Power has increased by more than 40 points since 2014, and he already has 11 home runs and 29 extra base hits in 81 games after just 15 home runs and 39 extra base hits in 133 games last season. Ramirez is ranked as the fourth best defensive third baseman in the MLB this season according to Fangraphs. Altogether, he is hitting .247/.295/.430 this season for a 96 wRC+ and has been valued at 1.2 fWAR. The Pirates will reportedly pay $3 mil of Ramirez’s remaining contract, with Milwaukee footing the rest of the bill as part of the deal. Reliever David Goforth has been recalled to replace Ramirez on the active roster.
This deal ensures that Ramirez will finish his career in the only division he has ever played in, the National League Central. Ramirez was once a top-prospect in the Pittsburgh organization, and he spent six years as a Pirate before being traded to the Cubs 12 years ago to the day. Ramirez came to the Brewers on a three year, $36 mil contract prior in the 2012 season. The deal included a mutual $14 mil option that both parties exercised this past offseason. Ramirez ends his four year Brewers’ career having slashed .284/.342/.473 in 455 games, slugging 65 home runs and starting the 2014 All-Star game. He was valued at 9.7 fWAR during his tenure with Milwaukee.
In return for Ramirez and cash, the Brewers received 23 year old Yhonathan Barrios. Standing 5’11” and 180 lbs, Barrios was signed out of Colombia in 2009 as an infielder. After struggling to a .472 OPS in 44 games at the low-A level in 2012, Barrios converted to pitcher. Ranked as the Pirates #30 prospect by Fangraphs, Barrios reportedly can hit the upper 90s with his fastball while also featuring a changeup and slider. Barrios has appeared in 84 games as a reliever, pitching 109.2 innings and striking out 81 batters versus 44 walks. He struggled somewhat in a brief 15 game stint at AAA this season, posting a 4.60 ERA in 15 games, and the Brewers have assigned him to the AA Biloxi Shuckers.
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There are many things to like about this trade for the Milwaukee Brewers. First off, it finally kicked off the long-awaited sell off that we have a good chance at seeing over the next eight days. Next, the Brewers were able to move Ramirez, a player in the final year of his career who looked untradeable two months ago. The Brewers also showed that they were willing to absorb money in order to facilitate a deal, which no doubt helped them recoup a stronger return for Ramirez. Finally, the Brewers acquired exactly the type of player they should have been looking for in exchange for an expiring veteran contract: a lottery ticket type player. Barrios is far from a finished product but he has definitely has room to grow. His breaking stuff needs refinement and his control needs to improve, but he is still learning how to pitch and has shown promising results after just two years. If the Brewers can help him develop a solid complimentary offering to his blazing fastball, he could have a future in the back end of a major league bullpen.
Aramis Ramirez should be just the first domino to fall among several trade candidates on the team. The non-waiver trade deadline is on July 31st, and we could see a flurry of moves by the Milwaukee Brewers, who have officially put the “FOR SALE” sign up in the front yard.