It’s been interesting to watch the Aramis Ramirez Situation develop. Here’s what I’ve seen.
Phase 1: Ramirez signs four year, $42MM contract with an option for ’09. On the surface, it looks like security for both parties. In reality, it’s more of a two year deal. Jim Hendry built in the chance for Ramirez to void the contract after 2006 if Ramirez thinks he can get more than the non-guaranteed three years/$33.5MM remaining. Media makes light of the out clause and Ramirez indicates that there’s little chance he’d leave Chicago. Realistic fans realize that the contract gives the Cubs zero leverage.
Phase 2: In the first year of the contract, Ramirez plays just 123 games because of a quad injury. He’s quite productive in that time, but no one is publicly worried about the out clause.
Phase 3: In the middle of the 2006 season, the idea of the out clause surfaces again. Chicago media strangely contends that there’s little chance Ramirez walks away from three years, $33.5MM, non-guaranteed over his age 29-31 seasons with a weak free agent class at his position and tons of teams with money to burn looking for 3Bs. Ramirez continues to spout the party line about staying in Chicago.
Phase 4: Idea of re-negotiation surfaces, Ramirez starts deferring to his agent when asked about possible free agency. Media starts planting the seed that Ramirez is lazy and Scott Moore could be a Major League 3B in 2007. Despite the very serious chance of Ramirez departing and leaving the Cubs with nothing, Hendry does not trade him at the deadline.
Phase 5: Exercising out clause becomes a lock, but Hendry speaks of hammering out a deal with Ramirez within a few weeks of season’s end.
Phase 6: Though Hendry knew he’d need a manager all along, he contends that the manager search is the reason Ramirez doesn’t have a deal done after a few weeks.
Phase 7: A-Rod balloon is floated, giving Cubs fans false hope that the team could sustain the loss of Ramirez. Ramirez’s agent defends the player not running out ground balls and mentions that he might be the "hottest free agent."
Phase 8 (predicted): Agent starts saying that while Ramirez hopes to remain a Cub, his client has earned the right to test the free agent market.
Phase 9 (predicted): Ramirez signs with Angels or Dodgers. Chicago Tribune starts trying to make Scott Moore seem like a capable replacement. Cubs fans, having been duped last year that Ronny Cedeno was a suitable alternative to Rafael Furcal, don’t buy it. I hope.
Phase 10 (predicted): Cubs spend a lot of money suboptimally and/or trade Rich Hill/Donald Veal/Sean Gallagher and play .500 ball at best in 2007.