This season, I’ve looked at the stock of a couple potential free agents that have a mutual option on their deal in the form of Nick Markakis (link) and Adam LaRoche (link). Another such player is Aramis Ramirez, and given the rarity with which mutual options are exercised — if the player is playing well, he almost certainly declines in search of a multi-year deal, and if not, the team declines due to poor production — Ramirez can be very reasonably expected to hit the open market heading into his age-37 season.
The question then, is whether Ramirez hits the open market because he declines his half of the $14MM option, or whether the Brewers send him on his way and pay a $4MM buyout.
Ramirez is hitting a strong .301/.341/.461 with 13 homers this season — good for an .802 OPS, a 122 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+. He’s been 22 to 23 percent better by park- and league-adjusted metrics like OPS+ and WRC+, and even you’re more partial to traditional statistics, he’s been well above average. The league-average OPS this season for non-pitchers is .716, and the league-average OPS for a third baseman is .714.
Additionally, a look at the market reveals some spotty competition. Two years ago, seeing Ramirez stacked up against Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez would’ve seemed much bleaker than it does now. Headley hasn’t hit much this season, and Sandoval has been a slightly weaker hitter than Ramirez (albeit at a younger age and with better defense). He’s outperformed Headley, and his asking price will assuredly be lower than Kung Fu Panda and Hanley, who both rank in the Top 5 of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings. Ramirez may not be a premier free agent, but he’s an upper-tier bat in a weak crop that will require fewer years than those in the top tier. Teams in need of help at the hot corner (and possibly DH) should show interest.
Of course, Ramirez isn’t a player without his faults. He missed 70 games in 2013, mostly due to a recurring issue in his left knee, and this season he’s already missed 22 games with a left hamstring injury. His defense doesn’t come with a great reputation, and while he’s posted a solid UZR in 2014, a half-season of UZR rarely tells the whole tale of a player’s glovework. Ramirez posted a negative UZR mark (and a negative DRS mark) in all but one season from 2008-13. Beyond that, his walk rate is down to a career-low 3.6 percent, and his solid OBP has been bolstered by an abnormally high HBP total (nine — which is quite a few based on his history).
At the time Ramirez hit the disabled list, he looked like a candidate for a one-year deal, and it was debatable whether or not Milwaukee would even exercise its half of the mutual option (he was hitting .252/.309/.390). Since returning in early June, however, he’s been excellent, hitting .329/.360/.502 with eight homers in 225 plate appearances. The ZiPS projection system forecasts a .285/.339/.469 line from here on out, while Steamer projects a similar .275/.333/.460 (both available on Ramirez’s Fangraphs page).
If he can hit at that pace or better, his option should be a non-factor. With a $4MM buyout on a $14MM option, Ramirez and the Brewers are essentially deciding on a one-year, $10MM deal. Milwaukee would likely jump at that price, but given his overall production, Ramirez will have no trouble topping that as long as he remains healthy. The interesting wrinkle will be whether or not Milwaukee extends a qualifying offer should Ramirez reject his half of the mutual option. At that point, the Brewers would essentially be offering one year at $19MM+ (assuming a $15MM+ qualifying offer value) — which they may be hesitant to do given their typically middle-of-the-road payroll.
Ramirez said last month that he had decided to play beyond this season and would try to reach the 2,500-game plateau (he’d need at least three more seasons to do so). Given his strong production and desire to play for several more seasons, it seems fair to expect the veteran slugger and his agents at Kinzer Management Group to pursue multiple years. There’s no precedent for a third baseman entering his age-37 season to get a significant three-year deal, but we did see aging slugger Carlos Beltran land a three-year pact last offseason as he headed into his age-37 campaign. (Marlon Byrd, another comparable in terms of age, netted a nice two-year deal with a vesting option, albeit at a lower rate than Ramirez would command.)
While Ramirez hasn’t necessarily been a heavily discussed free agent name to this point, a strong finish will position him nicely in a what looks to be a weak crop of free agent position players. His case will be a bit unique, but as long as he can continue at a strong pace, there’s little reason to doubt another multi-year deal for a player that is on pace to post an OPS+ north of 120 for the 10th time in 11 seasons.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
why would Aramis wanna leave Milwaukee it’s in the NL Central which he’s always played in and is indoors in the early part of the season? If I were him I’d wanna stay with the brewers
Aaramis could continue playing like this and reject his side of option and get a $4 mm buyout and if he gets a qo take it no matter what and get 18-19 mm for the year instead of 14. If I case he doesn’t get qo he can get around 30-45 for 3 years! All if remains healthy for the rest of the year!
Does he really get the $4M if he doesn’t pick up his part of the option? It just sounds silly to me that he would essentially be buying himself out.
Is essentially a backloading of his deal. He only made $6MM in his first year of the deal.
I don’t see what the back loading of the fall has to do with the mutual option?
the Brewers added guaranteed money to the end of the deal in order to make up for a low salary in 2012 when the brewers needed extra payroll flexibility. The contract was negotiated at once so of course the whole thing is connected. Basically the Brewers promised him 36 million over 3 years and the rest is just distribution.
Rofll… I know that. Im talking about the mutual option.
I said it before the season. A Beltran type deal wouldn’t surprise me.
He got 3/36 after a better, more healthy season, better track record, Silver Slugger, and at a younger age.
Not sure how one could think he could get something related to 3/45mil. I understand supply and demand can be different now than 3 years ago, but still I don’t think he is getting 3 years or that high of an average salary.
I definitely see him resigning with the Brewers, possible before the year is over. He will not play in a non-dome stadium and wants to stay in the midwest on a competitive team…The Brewers certainly fit the bill there.
1.Brewers are not messing around with contracts in a pennant race.
2.Not even sure where the rest even came from, source? I know he does like cold wheather but there are a ton of roofed stadium and a lot in warm climates. Also he has never said he won’t play in cold wheather or the Midwest or be on a competitive team…though with his age I can assume the last one. Really all three of those are preferences. You will still have to make a competitive offer.
That being said I think he resigns with Milwaukee. The Brewers have the money and they both like each other. The Brew Crew also has no incoming 3rd baseman so they really could use him. 2/24 and pray his knees hold up.
Not sure why I needed points 1 and 2 when you also agree that he will resign with the Brewers, or why you assumed I was saying he Brewers would not need to make a competitive offer given their mutual like of one another–but he has played his entire career in the NL central (aka midwest) and when asked about resigning with Milwaukee said,
“I like it here. That’s the reason I came here. No regrets. I’ve had a great three years here. It’s a great place to play baseball. Great stadium; we have a roof and don’t have to worry about conditions. Good team; we just missed the playoffs my first year here, and this year we’re in the pennant race. We have a good team. It was the right choice for myself.”
Aramis has always been a talented player and fun to watch on top of that, but I doubt he gets anything more than a 2 year deal. I’d be hesitant to give him that.
I’m impressed he’s hit so well this year, in 360 PAs this year, he’s walked 13 times. That’s almost impressively low, especially considering he had nearly 3x that many in a similar amount of PAs last year.
Now some players get by without patience but if you look back at his numbers, Ramirez’s wrost seasons are pretty strongly tied in to the seasons where he has the weakest plate discipline.
Still, I’d love to see him finish his career healthy as a Brewer, break 400 HRs and 2500 hits, and be a fringe HoF guy. He’s just always been fun to watch.