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Player Rankings: Scenery in the eye of the beholder

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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Like other young Marlins stars, Hanley Ramirez seems destined to be shipped out of South Florida. (US Presswire)  
Like other young Marlins stars, Hanley Ramirez seems destined to be shipped out of South Florida. (US Presswire)  

Updated Aug. 23

Certain players, it is speculated 3,200 times every day of every week, need a change of scenery. Why? Maybe they have betrayed their ability to the extent that only a change in geography/attire will serve as the necessary wakeup call. Maybe they have let local fans set up residence inside their cerebellums and can't silence the jeers, even in a quiet hotel room two time zones away. Or maybe they just can't get along with Tony La Russa.

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Anyway, I present to you this list of real or imagined Change Of Scenery All-Stars, in no particular order. Disclaimer: This piece is a work of massively and irresponsibly uninformed speculation. While the GMs in question would break into song if they were able to deal certain guys on this list, there's no evidence they'll ever have the opportunity to do so. Similarly, it's absurd to suggest that some of these guys will be dealt anytime soon, owing to favorable contracts and/or a realization by the adults in the room that, ever so occasionally, players don't reach their full potential until after the age of 23.

Then again, it was absurd to think that Colby Rasmus would be traded, much less for a few low-grade arms and the assumption of one crapball contract. So trust no one.

Batters

1. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins: Haven't you heard? He's "entitled." Thus he needs to be shipped somewhere with stronger entitlement benefits (Medicaid, social housing, etc.) than he receives from the cheapface Marlins. Duh.

2. B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays: Right or wrong, the thinking is that he would be more inclined to run out pop flies and respect his elders in, say, D.C. Apparently sloth does not transcend geography.

3. Yonder Alonso, Cincinnati Reds: It took three days for the Reds to decide that he can't play left field and three seconds for them to realize he won't be toppling the first-base incumbent. Now he's just a big hunk of wood in need of a home. Most tradable guy on this list, owing to salary?

4. Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays: After his twin sour campaigns of 2010 and 2011, he must live in constant fear of ambush. If anyone can disappear a player, it's Alex Anthopoulos. Hill ought to start wearing a whistle around his neck, just in case.

5. Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers: Watch his eyes closely when he approaches the plate. He's blinking "S.O.S." Sounds like another mission for SEAL Team 6.

6. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs: He's a fine DH candidate, but few AL teams are a potential bad-contract-for-bad-contract trade partner. It's a pity the Cubs can't deal with themselves, because Soriano-for-Zambrano might work. Exiling him would make the Wrigley friendlyheads go yaaaaaaaaay!

7. Carlos Lee, Houston Astros: What I wrote just above about Soriano? That times two. Separately, FanGraphs' metrics say that Lee has been an elite defender this season, a result that could set statistical analysis back 600 years. Can we fudge the numbers before the over-50 set sees them?

8. Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies: He remains a fine athlete with the baseball instincts of a shoe. He would benefit from a move into a teaching environment, like trade school.

9. Jeremy Hermida, Cincinnati Reds: He's killing it in Triple-A for a team that lists [your name here] atop the LF depth chart. His primary sin is one of handedness: he swings lefty and the Reds need a righty. Still only 27, he has experienced more scenery change than the average army brat.

10. Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays: If baseball expanded its rosters to allow each team to carry a designated mascot, Fuld would be in high demand. Until then, he's destined to live his baseball life as an itinerant, dazzling fans with his defense, pluck and general decorum.

11. Jed Lowrie, Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox look at his injuries and bungling afield, and think "utilityman." His agent, parent and entourage brahs look at his versatility and chipper bat, and think "starter." As they say in a very different biz from this one: never the twain shall meet.

12. Kila Ka'aihue, Kansas City Royals: I know, I know -- for the past two-plus seasons, I've been pimping him relentlessly. But he's still taking walks and slugging a little in the minors. It could still happen for him. It could!

Pitchers

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: He doesn't need a change of scenery, but he sure deserves one. What are the odds that the Dodgers' owners, whoever they may be, will give him a Weaver contract (5/$85m)? You could see the Yankees emptying their minor-league cache for him.

2. Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds: His fastball appears to be missing and Dusty Baker is not the guy who's gonna find it. Dusty is, however, the obvious lead-detective candidate for The Case of the Purloined Toothpick.

3. Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs: What he really needs is a do-unto-others refresher course. That said, when his head is right -- that's a hypothetical along the lines of "when the moon glows green" -- he can still pitch a little. Don't rule out a comeback elsewhere, with the Cubs picking up the tab.

4. Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles: Perhaps he would bloom like an orchid in a hitter's hinterland like the NL West. Or perhaps he would keep throwing 84 mph fastballs that flutter in the late-afternoon breeze. The Orioles are doing something very, very wrong with their young arms.

5. Tom Gorzelanny, Washington Nationals: The old-school stats don't support my proposition that, with nurturing and love, he would realize his Chuck Finley-lite destiny. But the K/BB numbers look swell and his slider is one mean sumbitch. Some smart team will make him an acquisition priority.

6. Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets: N.Y. teams have way too itchy a trigger finger: They subscribe to the theory of "try and if you don't succeed, try with someone else." Half the organization wants him to close, but the other half -- the sane half -- doesn't want to limit him to 75 innings. We'll see.

7. Wandy Rodriguez, Houston Astros: Maybe a return to something vaguely resembling competitive baseball would invigorate him. Between his team and his contract, he has as much incentive to excel as a carpet installer.

8. Brian Fuentes, Oakland Athletics: Following his spat with Bob Geren, he shut his mouth. Maybe he won't be happy anywhere the skipper doesn't use him as he likes -- e.g., in situations where the neon SAVE light flashes with gusto -- but he still throws with an arm other than his right one.

9. Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore Orioles: It ain't working for him in Baltimore -- but then again, nothing is working for anyone there. The hitters don't hit. The plumbers don't plumb. Even the folks in Yemen are like "You're an Orioles guy? Dude, so sorry. What can we do to help?"

10. Kevin Slowey, Minnesota Twins: When he appeared to be on the way out, even clubhouse peons took off-the-record shots at him ("his shower thongs teem with bacteria"). It's well documented that his pitching coach considers him a nibbler. Maybe he just needs a friend.

11. Frank Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays: I list Frank "Frankie the Frank" Francisco here as a proxy for the put-upon relievers of the AL East, whose egos are as bruised as their ERAs. The relentless OBP-ishness of the competition has humbled many a middleman. Support group, anyone?

12. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants: Change of scenery, change of profession -- whichever.

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