Aramis Ramirez to Join Brewers: What It Means to the Cubs and NL Central
Long-time Cub and star third baseman Aramis Ramirez will be going less than 100 miles north to play for the rival Brewers franchise. USAToday.com is reporting that Milwaukee is about to tender Aramis Ramirez a three-year contract, of which the pay is not yet specified.
Ramirez has been many things over his nine-year tenure on the north side of Chicago. When he plays he produces like few other starters at the hot corner, and he's been doing it for virtually a decade now. He hits when it counts, shows great plate discipline and contact skills. His 25-plus home run power is a staple of his consistency. In 2011, he hit .306 with a .361 on-base percentage, all to top off 26 home runs and 93 runs batted in. Offensively, he hit like the Aramis of his prime...almost.
When he takes the field, it's a different story entirely. Although he had shown random upticks in defensive skill before age 30, at age 33 Aramis is now a serious liability in the field. The Brewer management may try to spin this differently, but it is a simple fact that Ramirez now plays defense at a "designated hitter level."
The second large caveat of any Ramirez-signing will have to be his track record of health, otherwise known as his pretty serious injury history. In the past three years alone he has only completed one full season. 2009 and 2010 saw him miss great chunks of the year on the Disabled List.
These injuries are bound to continue at age 34, 35 and 36. If he makes it through the 2012 season without a trip to the DL (or two...or three), the Brewers will be counting their lucky stars.
Negative points aside, Aramis was arguably the best National League third baseman last year. Yet logic would tell you that over-paying for a year like that, in the form of an injury-prone 33-year-old, is never the right idea.
His legacy in Chicago will be one of much fan debate. From 2004 to 2011, he was more often than not the best offensive player on the team. On and off, he produced at a level that is reserved for only the most elite.
He'll also be remembered for not showing up at the plate in the minimal playoff at-bats he did get. There was no post season success. The lack of it will cause his memory to fade much quicker than it may deserve to.
In total, it's a pretty risky move for Milwaukee, no question. Yet with the certainty of losing Prince Fielder this off season paired with the loss of Ryan Braun for his 50 game suspension, they clearly needed to mix up all of this negative progress. Aramis will make up for the hurt of losing Fielder and a third of Braun's season, but he is not on the same offensive level as either of them. Although he was great this past season, it's still a considerable drop-off.
His abilities in the field will drag the team down, so his production better be hot right off the bat—or else the Brewers reign as champions in the NL Central is appearing to be one-and-done. The division has benefited greatly from the disintegration of the Brewers star-duo.
If the Cubs nab Prince Fielder this off season, it is the icing on the cake that is the opening season of Theo Epstein and his knights of the round table. It's a swing of talent that is great in the short-term and the long-term. Ramirez may fix the Brewers problem in the present, but the Cubs could have far and away the best offseason in the division with just a few more transactions. Stay tuned.
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