Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is Ramirez's slow start guaranteeing he will be in a Cubs uniform next year?

 A-Ram...will he stay or will he go?

Aramis Ramirez has often times been a slow starter.

Statistically his worst two months throughout his career are April and May.

This year has been exceptionally bad.  In fact, this was the worst April of his career.

It's very possible as the temperature warms up, Ramirez's bat will as well.  June, July and particularly August are his best months out of the year.

With that said, statistically this season he is going to have a really hard time getting his numbers up to his career averages by the end of the year.  So...this will probably end up being a below average year for Aramis.

Why is that so important for the Cubs?

Technically there are two years left on his contract...two option years.  The first year is a player option.  Yes, Ramirez can become a free agent at the end of the year if he wants to.  (The second, with some vesting conditions, is a team option if Aramis stays in 2011.)

Judging by the handling of the Derrek Lee situation right now (Lee's contract expires after this season...and the Cubs appear in no rush to extend him right now), the Cubs might be looking to move Ramirez out if this season begins to go south and the team starts looking to rebuild after the season.  He is the 3rd highest paid player on the team next to Soriano and Zambrano.  In theory, he would be the easiest to clear from the books of these three players as well.

Ramirez is set to earn $14.6 million if he decides to play out that option year.  If he leaves, would he be able to command much from a the free agent market?  That's hard to say right now...but I'm thinking that it would be unlikely.  

The big position in 2011 free agency is predicted to be 1st base, and a significant amount of money may be thrown around to these potential free agents.  That likely is to mean that Ramirez, coming off a below average season, and an injury prone season before that, will have a hard time getting that $14.6 million that he would automatically make staying with the Cubs.  Financially, his best bet may be to stay with the Cubs.  One counter-argument to this is the fact the Ramirez would likely be the best 3rd baseman in free agency in 2011.  If a team is very desperate for a middle of the order hitter that plays third, you never know. 

The truth is, the Cubs would be foolish to let Ramirez go...he is going to recover and have a productive final 5 months of the season.  He has brought stability to a position that had been unstable for this franchise for 30 years. Offensively he's excellent, and plays well enough defensively at third base to make Theriot look even worse than he already is.  He's also only 32 years old right now...younger than Soriano, Lee, Fukudome and Byrd.  Ramirez's potential replacement, Josh Vitters, appears to still be a few years away from being able to make a contribution to a big league club...but that could also change quickly as was have seen with Starlin Castro, and, even better, Tyler Colvin. 

The often silent Ramirez hasn't said much about staying or going.  (On a side note, it is a shame that he doesn't talk to the press more...he comes across as one of the smartest and most pleasant players in baseball in the few interviews I've seen of him.)

But the longer this slump goes for A-Ram, the more likely it is that he will be playing for the Cubs in 2011, whether the Cubs want it or not...unless they can get him to agree to a trade.