It's time for the Chicago Cubs to think of possible trades to replace Aramis Ramirez after he declined the 2012 options offered to him by the Cubs. Ramirez, the power-hitting third baseman, has played on the North Side since 2003 after being traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates and was voted to two All-Star games during that time.
Considering the current rebuilding, or reloading, state the Cubs are in, it wouldn't be in the organization's best interest to re-sign the 33-year-old third baseman, who's had his fair share of injuries over the last few seasons.
Ramirez's biggest contribution while wearing Cubby-blue was his production at the plate. He had a solid glove at the hot corner, but his glove has gotten old over the years.
The '12 free agent market for third basemen is pretty weak, so it'd be near impossible to replace Ramirez's offense and defense via free agency. Chicago may have to trade for a player, third basemen or not, who can contribute similar to Ramirez.
Mark DeRosa is a free agent heading into the 2012 MLB season, so the Chicago Cubs wouldn't have to give anything up for him. DeRosa had a previous stint with the Cubs during the 2007 and '08 seasons, but he was traded shortly after the Cubs were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the '08 playoffs.
Staying healthy has been an issue for DeRosa since him and the Cubs parted ways, but, when healthy, DeRosa is a valuable asset to a team like the Cubs.
DeRosa has played more positions than not throughout the course of his career. A handful of players currently on the Cubs' roster have, either, a history of injuries or aren't experienced enough to appear in the lineup for all 162 regular season games. DeRosa is a viable bench player who can be plugged in to the lineup on a regular basis, as well as a leader that can benefit the young players in the Cubs' clubhouse.
A one or two-year contract worth minimal money can be given to DeRosa as a short-term solution for the Cubs' attempt to replace Aramis Ramirez.
David Wright's contract with the New York Mets expires at the end of the 2012 season, and he's set to earn $15M in '12, with a $16M team option for the '13 season.
Wright hasn't been as healthy as the Mets would've liked during his tenure in New York, but the five-time All-Star produced when he was on the field. He wasn't as productive as Aramis Ramirez during his time with the Cubs, but Wright has still had plenty of success at the plate.
Wright is just 28-years-old, so he still has plenty of years left in his career, however, it's going to be difficult for the Mets to re-sign superstar shortstop Jose Reyes this offseason and attempt to do the same when Wright becomes a free agent.
Chicago could use a bat like Wright's in the middle of the lineup to replace Ramirez, and he'd takeover duties at third base with Ramirez gone.
Aside from Aramis Ramirez, Wilson Betemit is the most eye-catching name among the 2012 free agent third basemen. Betemit has played on 10 different MLB teams, so a change in scenery wouldn't be anything new for the 30-year-old.
Health hasn't been Betemit's strength over the last few years, considering he hasn't appeared in 100 or more games since 2007 when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.
Betemit doesn't hit for power, but he gets on base, and that's all the Chicago Cubs would ask of him if he was traded to the North Side. Defensively, Betemit has a track record of making less errors at third base than Aramis Ramirez has in the past few seasons.
Being that Betemit has been traded four times in his nine MLB seasons, he wouldn't cost the Cubs much if the club were to sign him as a free agent to be a short-term replacement for Aramis Ramirez.
Kevin Youkilis is under contract with the Boston Red Sox through the 2012 season, and he has a '13 team option worth $13M. Youkilis' current contract began in '09 after Theo Epstein, former Red Sox GM, current President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, rewarded him with a four-year, $41.13M contract.
Epstein and Youkilis' ties could result in an on-going relationship in Chicago if the Red Sox decided to ship him to the Cubs.
Youkilis, the three-time All-Star, is very productive at the plate, generating an OPS of no lower than .830 since 2007.
Not only can Youkilis swing the bat, but he has a nice glove, as well. He's never committed 10 errors in a single season, and he can play third base, first base and a little bit of outfield.
Youk' is a player the Cubs would love to have on their team. He's not afraid to get dirty, and he's willing to take one for the team.
Gordon Beckham has been in the MLB for just three years, but the 25-year-old is often speculated to be a trade candidate.
The Chicago White Sox drafted Beckham eighth overall in the 2008 amateur draft and put him on the big league roster immediately. Beckham's MLB stats in his first three seasons haven't been flattering, but he's still young. I'm not sure if White Sox GM Kenny Williams is aware of that, though.
Beckham played shortstop at the University of Georgia, but made the switch to second base when he was drafted by the White Sox. He has great range for a second baseman that is constantly improving, and he has the arm strength to occupy third base if needed.
If, somehow, the Chicago Cubs can convince their cross-town rivals to trade Beckham, he'd be a great addition. Beckham can be placed anywhere in the batting order, and his defense is almost irreplaceable.
Gordon Beckham could be the long-term solution the Cubs need. Say Starlin Castro doesn't work out at shortstop, Castro can move to third, and Beckham and Darwin Barney can be the Cubs' double play combo.
James Shields doesn't offer the offensive production that Aramis Ramirez has provided the Chicago Cubs with the last nine seasons, but starting pitching goes a long way in the big leagues.
The Cubs acquired Matt Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the 2011 season, so it's not impossible to imagine the two sides agreeing on a deal that would send Shields to the North Side. Shields is signed through the '12 season with team options for '13 and '14.
Big Game James, the 29-year-old starting pitcher, can instantly improve any team's starting rotation, especially the Cubs'. Garza and Shield could be the one-two-punch in the Cubs rotation that has been lacking, however, Chicago may not have enough compensation for Tampa Bay in order to acquire Shields.
Shields coming to Chicago isn't impossible, but it'll take some serious negotiating in order to pull off a deal that would, indeed, send Shields to the Cubs.