Aramis Ramirez Rumors

NL Notes: Upton, Brewers, Dodgers

Braves center fielder Melvin Upton (long known as B.J.) will miss the start of the season with inflammation in his left foot, the club announced. He is not expected to resume baseball activities until early April, per the release. Needless to say, these circumstances likely wipe out any remaining possibility of a spring trade of Upton and the three years and $46.35MM left on his deal. The club is expected to allow in-house options such as Eury Perez, Eric Young Jr., Zoilo Almonte, and Todd Cunningham to compete for the job in camp, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

More from the National League:

  • With Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez expected to retire after the season, Milwaukee will need to implement their succession plan, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes. The need for a replacement is not a surprise to the club, but that doesn’t mean it has an immediately attractive option. While Nick Delmonico had been viewed as a strong possibility when he was acquired in 2013, his fallout with the team and subsequent release left a gap. A weak free agent class limits that avenue. And internally, the most plausible candidates appear to be waiver claimee Luis Jimenez and shortstop prospects Hector Gomez and Luis Sardinas.
  • The remade Dodgers front office is acutely aware of the impact of injuries on team performance, writes Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register. While the club invested in several oft-injured arms over the offseason, they did so with an equal appreciation for the risk and the upside, in the words of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. The Los Angeles brass is exploring means of blending data and biophysics to reduce the harm wrought by physical issues — both to inform personnel decisions and to protect players already under contract. “I would contend that any kind of advantage in injury prevention is significant,” said Friedman.

Aramis Ramirez Likely To Retire After 2015 Season

Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is likely to retire after the season is over, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Last offseason, the Brewers and Ramirez exercised his $14MM mutual option, and Ramirez said at the time that he would decide whether he wanted to play beyond that. It appears he is, at least, close to making that decision.

USATSI_7987558_154513410_lowres2015 will be Ramirez’s 18th season in the big leagues, even though he’s only 36 — he made his debut as a 19-year-old with the Pirates in 1998. It took a few more years for him to establish himself as a regular, but he announced his presence boldly with a .300/.350/.536 season in 2001. He struggled in 2002, however, and the Pirates shipped him to the Cubs in a cost-cutting move in 2003.

In Chicago, Ramirez blossomed into a dependable slugger, posting three straight seasons of 31 or more home runs beginning in 2004 and joining Derrek Lee as a key offensive player on a series of good Cubs teams. Ramirez remained with the Cubs through the end of the decade, then signed with the Brewers as a free agent following the 2011 season. He had one of the best years of his career in his first season in Milwaukee, leading the NL in doubles with 50 and posting a .300/.360/.540 line as he finished ninth in MVP balloting.

In spite of that, there were signs that Ramirez might be reaching the end. He’s coming off a solid .285/.330/.427 2014 season, but he missed significant time due to injury in 2013, and his power has slipped since 2012. He is also reportedly highly dedicated to his family, which lives in his native Dominican Republic. “It’s more of a family thing,” Ramirez tells the Journal Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak. “I’ve got three kids, I’ve been playing for a long time, been away for a long time. Sometimes it’s just time to do something else.”

For his career, Ramirez has hit .285/.344/.496 with 369 home runs, and he’ll likely end his career in the top five in that category among third basemen. He has made three All-Star games and been in the top 20 in NL MVP voting five times.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Aramis Ramirez Exercises Option To Remain With Brewers

Aramis Ramirez has exercised his side of his $14MM mutual option with the Brewers and will return to the club in 2015, the Brewers announced via their Twitter feed.  Milwaukee exercised its end of the option on Friday.  Ramirez is represented by Paul Kinzer.

Ramirez said in September that he was keeping his options open, though he preferred to return to Milwaukee and wasn’t sure if he wanted to play beyond the 2015 season.  Exercising this option checks off both boxes for the 36-year-old slugger, though as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes noted in Ramirez’s Free Agent Profile, it’s very rare for a team and player to both agree on a mutual option, let alone one worth as much as $14MM.  Dierkes projected Ramirez to find a two-year deal worth between $26-$30MM (depending on if Ramirez had a qualifying offer attached to him or not) this winter.MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers

He is comfortable in Milwaukee, and obviously Aramis has made a lot of money in his career and he has invested wisely and is in very good shape (financially),” Kinzer tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He told me he wants to control his own destiny. He’ll decide after next year if he wants to keep playing.

If he signed a two- or three-year deal (with another club) now, he’d feel obligated to fulfill that contract. This is his choice. He’s happy in Milwaukee and if he puts up the numbers and wants to play another year, it’s his decision and nobody else’s. He said he’ll sit down with his family at the end of next year and decide if he wants to play more. It was an easy decision for him.”

Ramirez hit .285/.330/.427 with 15 homers and a 109 wRC+ over 531 plate appearances in 2014.  While still a productive bat, there were a few red flags around Ramirez’s performance — he hasn’t posted a lower slugging percentage since the 2002 season, a lower walk rate since 2000, and his .142 ISO was a career-low over a full season.  If Ramirez’s decline gets sharper, the Brewers may have dodged a bullet by only having the veteran under contract through next season.  Milwaukee’s corner infield situation for 2015 has become much clearer with Ramirez returning at third and the newly-acquired Adam Lind getting much of the time at first base, though Lind will need a platoon partner to face left-handed pitching.

Dierkes ranked Ramirez as the 19th-best free agent of the 2014-15 offseason, and the fairly sparse third base market gets even thinner with Ramirez off the board.  This further strengthens Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley‘s chances of finding big contracts as the best available 3B options, though Hanley Ramirez could also still explore signing as a third baseman.

Photo courtesy of Benny Sleu/USA Today Sports Images



Quick Hits: Ramirez, Astros, Padres

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Potential free agent Aramis Ramirez will meet with his agent on Sunday to determine if he will exercise his side of a $14MM mutual option with the Brewers, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. The Brewers exercised their end of the deal on Friday. Ramirez has hit well when healthy, including a .285/.330/.427 line last season. However, he’s averaged just 441 plate appearances over the past two years. Entering his age 37 season, teams may be hesitant to commit to many years or a high annual value. Even so, he can likely earn better on the open market. Ramirez will receive a $4MM buyout (paid in two, $2MM installments) if he declines the option.
  • With Root Sports Houston solving the Astros broadcasting disaster, Houston may have more money to spend in free agency, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Owner Jim Crane is on the record as saying payroll could edge up by $20MM, which is fairly modest considering the club ranked dead last in 2014 with an opening day payroll of $44.5MM, per ESPN. The new partnership with Root Sports Houston could further improve the Astros financial position. As Drellich points out, just don’t expect Max Scherzer.
  • Also via Drellich, the Astros could aim to improve via trade, as they did with Dexter Fowler last offseason. The club is loaded with young talent, and at some point it will be necessary to consolidate some of that depth. The bullpen and infield (aside from Jose Altuve) are the top problem areas for the club, and they could stand to add a starter too.
  • The Padres front office hires under new GM A.J. Preller have a common trait, notes Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego. The group of Don Welke, David Post, Chris Kemp, Sam Geaney, and Logan White all have very strong reputations as talent evaluators. At least one outside source believed talent evaluation was a weakness for the Padres, so the focus seems well placed.

Brewers Exercise Mutual Option On Aramis Ramirez

The Brewers have exercised their half of a $14MM mutual option on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Ramirez and his agents at Kinzer Management will now have three days to decide whether to accept their half or decline in favor of free agency.

Should Ramirez exercise his half, he’d be locked into a one-year, $14MM deal to return to the Brewers. If he forfeits that salary, the Brewers could still make him a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer. The team has obviously expressed a willingness to pay him $14M, so it stands to reason that the additional $1.3MM wouldn’t be too much of a detriment, especially considering the fact that it would secure them a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round of the 2015 draft should Ramirez decline the offer and sign elsewhere.

MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently penned a free agent profile on Ramirez noting that he believes Ramirez can find a two-year, $30MM contract on the open market without a qualifying offer attached but may have to settle for a lesser annual value and take something along the lines of a two-year, $26MM deal if the Brewers make the QO.

One other option, as Tim covered in the profile, would be for the two sides to work out a compromise over the next 72 hours and draw up a new two-year deal at a slightly lesser rate than the QO or the current $14MM sum. Tim speculated that the same $26MM price tag might make sense for both sides, and I’m inclined to agree.

Ramirez, 36, batted .285/.330/.427 with 15 homers in 133 games (531 plate appearances) this season, though he did struggle in the season’s second half. Nevertheless, 2014 marked the 11th time in the past 12 seasons that Ramirez has posted an OPS+ of 100 or better. He averaged a 134 OPS+ from 2011-13, suggesting that he can still produce at a very high offensive level even as he ages.


East Links: Santana, Sox, Cespedes, Phils, Mets

The Braves are expected to make a qualifying offer to Ervin Santana, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the event that Santana leaves, the team may pursue a top-of-the-rotation type of arm, O’Brien writes, but their lack of financial flexibility would make the trade market a more likely avenue than free agency. O’Brien adds that he finds it unlikely that Santana would accept the QO — a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. He also notes that should the club lose Santana, it might be more motivated to try to retain Aaron Harang, even though he is in line for a sizable raise from the $2MM he earned in 2014 (including incentives). MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Harang, pegging him for a two-year, $14MM contract. Santana was also profiled by MLBTR, with Tim Dierkes projecting a four-year pact worth $56MM.

Elsewhere in baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • The Red Sox are prioritizing Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley as the look toward the offseason, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The team may also look at Aramis Ramirez, though he’s not believed to be as coveted as Sandoval or Headley and is said to prefer a return to Milwaukee, per Heyman, who adds that the Yankees would like to re-sign Headley. Red Sox third basemen combined to hit just .245/.305/.351 in 2014.
  • Red Sox people strongly denied a previous report that Yoenis Cespedes is hated by the team’s coaching staff, Heyman writes in a second piece. One source called the report “totally untrue,” and manager John Farrell added on MLB Network Radio that the notion was “completely unfounded,” Heyman adds. He goes on to write that a trade of Cespedes is unlikely (though not impossible), given Boston’s overall need for power.
  • The Phillies announced today that their entire coaching staff has agreed to return to the club for the 2015 season.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post looks at the second round of changes coming to the dimensions of Citi Field and writes that the new dimensions may give some type of hint as to which players are most likely to be traded by the Mets this offseason. The Mets are planning to make Citi Field more homer-friendly and build the pitching staff around arms that emphasize strikeouts and ground-balls. Names like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler fit that description, but Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and, to a lesser extent, Rafael Montero are all more prone to fly-balls, making them more likely to be dealt.

Brewers Notes: Braun, Roenicke, LaRoche, Ramirez

Brewers GM Doug Melvin is scheduled to meet with principal owner Mark Attanasio and manager Ron Roenicke this week, so there should be some clarity on the status of the coaching staff in the next few days. There should also be some clarity on the health of Ryan Braun. Last Thursday, Braun underwent cryotherapy to freeze the nerve in his ailing right thumb and has a follow-up appointment with the doctor who performed the procedure on Monday. If there is no adverse reaction to the treatment, Braun will begin swinging a bat to determine its effect on his swing along with his pain tolerance.

Here’s more on the Brewers, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak:

  • Haudricourt opines the biggest offensive boost the Brewers could receive this offseason is Braun’s cryotherapy being a success because the free-swinging ways of the rest of the lineup are likely to continue. As Haudricourt writes, “It would be easier to change a leopard’s spots than turn any of those hitters into a modern-day Wade Boggs.”
  • Rosiak guesses Roenicke will return, but with a revamped coaching staff and approach.
  • Rosiak would not be surprised if the Brewers pull out all the stops to try to fill their offensive void at first base noting the front office will have serious interest in Adam LaRoche, if he is open to a two-year deal. The Nationals hold a $15MM option on LaRoche, which is expected to be declined.
  • Rosiak lists the odds as 50-50 for Aramis Ramirez returning to Milwaukee adding it will take some time for the situation to play itself out.
  • Speaking of Ramirez, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes penned a free agent profile of the Brewer third baseman yesterday.

Free Agent Profile: Aramis Ramirez

Aramis Ramirez had an up-and-down season for the Brewers, who must sort out his mutual option and weigh a potential qualifying offer.  The 36-year-old can still be a force at the plate, and may be the best offensive third baseman available this winter.

Strengths/Pros

USATSI_8015973_154513410_lowresRamirez has already had an illustrious 17-year-career.  Among third basemen, he ranks ninth all-time in home runs, tenth all-time in doubles, and tenth in RBI.  Though he’ll likely fall short of the Hall of Fame, Ramirez had a long run of being one of the top 5-10 third basemen in baseball since becoming a regular in 2001.

These days, his power may not be what it once was, but he still ranked 11th among all third basemen in isolated power, ahead of fellow free agent Pablo Sandoval.  He’s always made excellent contact, resulting in a .285 career batting average that he matched in 2014.  Overall, Ramirez still has a case as a top ten hitter at the hot corner, and he was basically Sandoval’s equal with the bat this year.  Ramirez also made his third All-Star team, hitting .288/.336/.459 in the first half.

As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted in August, Ramirez’s free agent competition at third base isn’t anything special (although it’s certainly no worse than the rest of the free agent hitting class, which is weak overall).  If one continues to categorize Hanley Ramirez as a shortstop, Ramirez’s .757 OPS led free agent third basemen, with Sandoval checking in at .739 and Chase Headley at .700.  Ramirez will not require nearly the commitment Sandoval will.

Weaknesses/Cons

Metrics suggest Ramirez’s defense was passable this year, though he has had some pretty rough seasons within the last five.

Ramirez will turn 37 next June, so he comes with typical durability question marks.  He played 298 games from 2011-12 and a reasonable 133 this year despite a DL stint for a hamstring injury.  That’s not bad, but Ramirez seems better suited for an American League team with some DH flexibility, especially if he seeks a multiyear deal.

Ramirez has had a consistent career, but his offense in 2014 was streaky.  He posted an OPS over .960 in June and August, yet was under .600 in July and September.  He wound up hitting only four home runs in 251 second half plate appearances.  Ramirez’s walk rate was down to 4% this year, his worst since his partial 2000 campaign.  Baserunning has consistently been a detriment throughout Ramirez’s career.

Personal

Ramirez is married with three children, and he resides with his family in the Dominican Republic in the offseason.  The third baseman “lives and breathes for his kids,” a person close to him told MLBTR.  When the kids are in school, Ramirez enjoys spending time on his farm in the Dominican.

Ramirez does not exhibit much overt emotion on the field, a trait that drew some criticism in Chicago, perhaps unfairly.

Market

Having spent his entire career in the NL Central, Ramirez has never served as a designated hitter more than five times in a season.  He hasn’t played a position other than third base in his entire pro career, so the idea of working him in at first base could be a stretch.  Certainly the Brewers would like to bring Ramirez back, as we’ll discuss below.  Otherwise, the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Red Sox, Royals, Angels, Yankees, Padres, Giants, and Blue Jays could seek help at the hot corner this offseason.  As a veteran who likely has plenty of money in the bank from past contracts, comfort could be a primary factor in Ramirez’s choice.

Expected Contract

Ramirez’s contract situation is complicated.  He and the Brewers hold a $14MM mutual option for 2015.  On the rare occasions in baseball that both sides of a mutual option have been exercised, it’s never been close to that kind of salary.  While a September 17th report from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports said the Brewers intend to pick up their side of the option, Brewers GM Doug Melvin told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy the topic hasn’t even been broached with the team’s owner or Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer.  Realistically, Melvin probably has some idea of what he wants to do, but option decisions aren’t due until after the World Series.

The Brewers do seem likely to pick up their side of the option — they’re faced with a $4MM buyout if they decline it, so the option is effectively only a $10MM decision.  If the Brewers pick the option up, Ramirez then has the opportunity to decline and go to free agency, in which case he would not receive a buyout.  $14MM is a reasonable salary if Ramirez only wants to play one more year, but he may prefer a longer term.  Ramirez suggested in July he’d go for 2,500 career games, a goal of which he is 443 short.  That suggests three or four more seasons, but in September, Ramirez was non-committal about what he’d do after 2015.

A two-year deal would be a nice compromise; perhaps Ramirez and the Brewers can work out something that pays around $25MM for that span.  I imagine if Ramirez is thinking bigger than that, he’ll have to find it on the open market.  One problem: the Brewers can reduce his leverage by making or telling him their intention to make a qualifying offer.  I expect them to make that offer if they get to that point.  Draft pick forfeiture would affect Ramirez’s market, but not as much as you might think.  The players most burned by qualifying offers last winter were asking for big contracts from the outset of free agency.  Ramirez might ask for just two years from the start, and I think he could find a team to give it to him even with the draft pick cost attached.

In the somewhat unlikely event that Ramirez hits the open market without a qualifying offer attached, it would help his chances of securing a three-year deal.  Still, he’d probably have to sacrifice on average annual value to get a third year, perhaps accepting something like three years and $33MM.

Ultimately, I think Ramirez will sign a two-year, $26MM deal to stay with the Brewers.  If he reaches the open market without a draft pick attached, I’ll go with two years and $30MM.  If he receives a qualifying offer from the Brewers, I think he’ll turn it down.  Even in that scenario, I think he can find the same two-year, $26MM deal on the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Central Notes: Braun, Ramirez, Hughes, Rondon

The Brewers fell to the Reds today by a score of 5-3, thereby officially eliminating the club from the postseason despite having spent 150 days in first place in the NL Central this season. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy notes, Milwaukee’s collapse makes the Brewers the first team since divisional play began in 1969 to spend that much time in first place but miss the postseason (Twitter link).

Here are some notes from Milwaukee and elsewhere in the game’s central divisions …

  • Ryan Braun could at least theoretically be moved from the outfield to plug the Brewers‘ hole at first base, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Manager Ron Roenicke said that the team had discussed that possibility, but indicated that it was a hypothetical discussion that did not seem likely to go anywhere. If Braun stays in the outfield, the team will both need to find a new first bagger (both Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay are free agents) and will face a more difficult decision whether to tender a contract to Gerardo Parra. As McCalvy notes, there are currently three possibilities already on the club’s 40-man roster in Matt Clark, Hunter Morris, and Jason Rogers. Otherwise, Milwaukee could turn to a free agent market that does appear to have a decent number of lumbering slugger types available.
  • Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez will soon meet with his agent, Paul Kinzer, to discuss his strategic options, writes McCalvy. Ramirez says that he has yet to seriously consider his future, though generally would like to stay with Milwaukee and is not sure he is interested in committing to multiple years. If he does decide to test the open market, Ramirez would need to turn down a $14MM mutual option (if it is offered in lieu of a $4MM buyout). Though his production is down somewhat this year, the 36-year-old remains a solid regular and would draw plenty of attention on the open market.
  • After a rain delay put a premature end to the last start of the season for Phil Hughes of the Twins, the club offered him a chance to make a relief appearance this weekend to notch the last out needed to trigger a $500K contract bonus, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (links to Twitter). Even more remarkable than that offer, perhaps, is the fact that Hughes declined, saying that he “owe[s] too much to the organization over the next two years to risk getting hurt.” (GM Terry Ryan said that it was not possible simply to give Hughes the cash, since the CBA would require a completely restructured contract, though Hughes also shot down that idea as setting a “bad precedent.”) Needless to say, this interesting tale puts a shine on an already gleaming turnaround year for Hughes.
  • The emergence of Hector Rondon as the Cubs‘ closer this year makes him an easy choice to keep the role next year, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. Rondon, 26, took a big step forward in 2014, striking out nearly nine batters per nine (against 2.2 BB/9) while registering a 2.49 ERA. If he continues to rack up the saves — he sits at 27 on the year — Rondon will set himself up for a nice payday when he reaches arbitration eligibility after next season. His continued presence at the back of the pen — bolstered by Pedro Strop and Neil Ramirez, both of whom have had strong campaigns — could keep the Cubs out of the free agent market for late-inning arms.

Central Notes: Aramis, Indians, Perkins

Here’s the latest out of the game’s central divisions:

  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin denied a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the team had decided to exercise its end of a $14MM mutual option over third baseman Aramis Ramirez for next season. The option, which comes with a $4MM buyout, has yet to be decided on according to Melvin. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports, Melvin expressed surprise at hearing the report and indicated that he had not discussed the option with either team owner Mark Attanasio or Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer. Ramirez, 36, has had a solid overall campaign and remains an above-average option at the hot corner. Needless to say, Milwaukee’s decision on his option will have important ramifications for the third base market.
  • Though the Indians boast an intriguing group of young starters, GM Chris Antonetti said that the team will look to add more arms in the offseason, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports“We’ve seen it first-hand this year,” Antonetti explained. “The five who started the season for us aren’t the same five who are pitching for us right now.” Also on the docket for the fall is an effort to improve the team’s infield defense, said Antonetti. According to Fangraphs’ measurement of defensive value, Cleveland ranks second to last in all of baseball. (Of course, one potentially positive sign is that newly installed shortstop Jose Ramirez has received stellar marks from advanced metrics, quite the opposite of Asdrubal Cabrera, who he replaced after the trade deadline.)
  • Twins closer Glen Perkins is set to undergo a “complete look” at his throwing arm, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Fresh off of signing a four-year, extension with just over $14MM in new guarantees before the season, Perkins was strong for much of the year. But things have turned south in the last month, and he has now allowed seven earned runs in his last four outings. Perkins missed time due to neck and shoulder discomfort, and since returning has seen the issue extend to the rest of his arm. “We’re going to give him a test on the left arm, see what’s going on there,” said GM Terry Ryan. “He’s got a little soreness, so we’ll get it looked at. His neck is fine.” Ryan said that the team would wait for an assessment before determining a course of action for the rest of the year, though obviously the future is of greater concern: “[Doctors] are going to give him a complete look, whatever that means. I don’t want to be premature here. If it’s severe, we’ve got issues. If it’s not, then we’ll move forward.”