MIAMI — Former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez was traded from Miami to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, part of what appears to be the third big fire sale in Marlins’ history.
Left-handed reliever Randy Choate also was dealt to the Dodgers. The Marlins received right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough.
The trade came two days after the Marlins sent pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for pitching prospect Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers.
“We weren’t winning with the group we had and we want to make changes,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.
As the team prepared to move into its new $634 million retractable-roof ballpark, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria hired Ozzie Guillen as manager and committed $191 million in a five-day span during the offseason to sign All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. The team agreed to star in a Showtime reality series, “The Franchise.”
In their colorful new uniforms, the Marlins were 31-23 through June 3, just percentage points out of first place, then lost 17 of their next 20 games. They started Wednesday 45-52, fourth in the NL East and 12½ games out of first place.
“These are tough trades, but when you underachieve at the level this team has underachieved and has not won at the level we expected it to — we have talked about restructuring and this is part of it,” Beinfest said.
Miami might not be done, with pitcher Josh Johnson and Bell also trade possibilities before Tuesday’s deadline to make swaps without waivers.
“Be careful with what you think, what you say, and how you smile because you might be next (to get traded),” Guillen said. “That’s the way it has to go if you don’t perform. That’s business.”
After winning the 1997 World Series, the Marlins jettisoned high-priced stars Moises Alou, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, Jeff Conine and Devon White. They won the Series again in 2003, then allowed Ivan Rodriguez, Ugueth Urbina, Derrek Lee, Mark Redman, Braden Looper and Juan Encarnacion to depart.
The 28-year-old Ramirez is hitting .246 with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs, far from his big season in 2009 when he hit a league-leading .342 with 24 homers and 106 RBIs.
“I am sad to go,” Ramirez said. “This will be always be my home, but it will just be a little different.”
A three-time All-Star, he shifted from shortstop to third base this season to make room for Reyes.
“It’s sad to see Hanley go to another team,” Reyes said. “We developed a great relationship. I feel he was one of my real good friends on the team. Anytime someone close to you goes to another team it kind of surprises you a little bit and you get sad a little bit, but still need to go out on the field and play the game.”
He joined several other stars who changed teams in recent weeks, including Ichiro Suzuki, Wandy Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis.
“He meant a lot to this organization, a premium talent, an uber talent in a lot of respects,” Beinfest said.
Los Angeles is 2½ games behind NL West-leading San Francisco. After a 32-15 start, the Dodgers are just 21-30 since.
“You never know what a change of scenery will do for somebody,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “We see him as one of our main guys.”
After filing for bankruptcy in 2011, the Dodgers were bought from Frank McCourt for $2 billion on May 1 in a move that led to Stan Kasten becoming team president.
Ramirez has a $15 million salary this year and is owed $15.5 million next year and $16 million in 2013.
“We’re not going to let money stand in the way of a true baseball deal. And if we can improve the club, the financial piece of it will always be there,” Colletti said. “It’s kind of a liberating thing because we’re able to make a baseball trade. We found a player that we really like, that we think can add to our lineup and at the same time show the guys who have been busting their tail for the last three months that we acknowledge how hard they’ve played and to get them the support that we can. It’s good to not have to worry too much about what it’s going to cost you from a financial standpoint. This (ownership) group is in to win.”
Ramirez will play shortstop for now for the Dodgers. Dee Gordon is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb that could sideline him until mid-August and is batting only .229 with 17 RBIs.
“I look at it as he has a clean slate,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Anything that’s happened in his past has nothing to do with me, has nothing to do with the Dodgers. It’s basically moving forward.”
Choate, a 36-year-old lefty, is 0-0 with one save and a 2.49 ERA in 44 games. He began his big league career with the New York Yankees in 2000 and also has pitched for Arizona and Tampa Bay.
Eovaldi, a 22-year-old righty, is 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA. He made his major league debut last season. Eovaldi will make his Marlins debut on Saturday in a start against San Diego.