According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune:
"While the Cubs still believe Aramis Ramirez won't exercise his opt-out clause after this season and leave $22 million on the table to become a free agent, they do have a third baseman in the system with a bright future. West Tenn's Scott Moore, a 22-year-old prospect who was a first-round draft pick of Detroit in 2002, is tied for second in the Southern League with 20 home runs and ranks third with 68 RBIs. Moore, who was acquired with Roberto Novoa from Detroit in the Kyle Farnsworth trade, is at least a year away from the majors."
Ramirez's contract, signed in April of last year, calls for $11MM in 2007 and $11.5MM in 2008. The deal also has an $11MM mutual option for '09 that becomes guaranteed with 270 games played from 2007-08. How likely is this? Here's a look at Ramirez's games played.
Age 23: 158 games
Age 24: 142 games
Age 25: 159 games
Age 26: 145 games
Age 27: 123 games
Age 28: 158 games (projected)
2005, Ramirez dealt with groin problems, lower back tightness, a sprained ankle, a bruised shin, and a quad injury. The quad injury is what really caused the missed time, and it looks like an exception rather than the norm. So I think it's safe to say Ramirez is looking at a three-year, $33.5MM deal for his age 29-31 seasons.
One has to wonder whether the Tribune is quietly laying the groundwork for the Scott Moore era in Chicago. Paul Sullivan hasn't been a company man, though, so there are probably no hidden motives. Cubs fans can rest easy for the moment; it appears Ramirez will remain a Cub.
The offseason won't be without temptation, however. Ramirez's toughest competition at the hot corner: Aubrey Huff and Nomar Garciaparra. He's younger, he's better, and he's healthier than that pair. The most comparable contract might be Troy Glaus at four guaranteed years, $45MM for 2005-08. Glaus was entering his age 28 season, though he'd played just 149 games from 2003-04. Ramirez, on the other hand, just posted his third consecutive 30 HR campaign. There's no doubt he could get four guaranteed years (as opposed to the current two) and at least $13MM annually.
Either Ramirez A)doesn't exercise his out clause and honors his deal (which is a hometown discount), B)tests the free agent market and finds several superior offers, or C)renegotiates his current deal. Jim Hendry hopes for A; C seems a lot more likely.
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