Rangers acquire backstop talent
Texas procures Ramirez, sends Lofton to Cleveland
KANSAS CITY -- Marlon Byrd became the Rangers regular center fielder on Friday after the club traded outfielder Kenny Lofton to the Cleveland Indians for Minor League catcher Max Ramirez.The Rangers also recalled outfielder Nelson Cruz from Triple-A for Friday's game against the Kansas City Royals and will give him a chance to play right field again. Ramirez is a former infielder who was converted to catcher by the Atlanta Braves in 2005. He was then traded to the Indians on July 20, 2006 for reliever Bob Wickman. A native of Venezuela, Ramirez played for the World Team in the 2007 MLB All-Star Futures Game. General manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers made the trade both to add a top offensive prospect to their Minor League system and to take the next two months to evaluate Byrd in center and Cruz in right. "Max Ramirez is a player that we like," Daniels said. "Our scouts like his bat and he's performed at a very high level in the Minor Leagues. Max's bat is going to allow him to play in the big leagues and we think he can stay behind the plate." Ramirez joins a crowded field of catching prospects in the lower levels of the Minors, a group that includes Class A Bakersfield's Taylor Teagarden and Class A Clinton's Manny Pina. "That's not a bad thing," Daniels said. "For me it's like the Draft. You don't draft for need, you draft the best players. You don't trade for prospects for need unless they're close to the big leagues. As we talked to other clubs and identified the best players available, Ramirez was a guy we liked. Anytime you can add depth to a position up the middle, especially with a hitter, that's not a bad thing." Ramirez, 22, has been playing for Class A Kinston (N.C.) in the Carolina League batting .303 with 20 doubles, 12 home runs and 62 RBIs in 77 games. Among Carolina League leaders this season he ranked second in on-base percentage (.418), third in RBIs (62) and fourth in average (.303) and slugging percentage (.505). He will be assigned to Bakersfield. Ramirez needs work defensively but Daniels said catching instruction is a strength in the organization. Farm director Scott Servais, roving catching instructor Damon Berryhill and Rangers third base coach Don Wakamatsu are all former Major League catchers.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.