Tigers Contemplating Third Base Upgrade With Aramis Ramirez

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It’s been a really slow week on the hot stove (assuming you aren’t a Jon Jaso fan), so slow that I’m going to follow in MLBTRs lead and relay musings and news relayed by others that were originally relayed by others. The internets are prone to this – it’s a sort of dispersed group think. One person makes a point, soon it’s everywhere and if you aren’t careful you might get the impression that fire must soon follow smoke. I’ll one up MLBTR, though: not only will I re-relay their relaying of Jason Beck’s relaying of Jon Heyman’s relaying of the news that somebody in the Tigers organization once spoke to Aramis Ramirez‘ agent – I’ll also rehash an old saw from MCB itself on the topic of Aramis Ramirez!

So… anyway… yes, it’s apparently true that the Tigers have shown some interest in Aramis Ramirez. Nothing concrete, of course, but we haven’t actually heard of the Tigers making inquiries in any other direction… Are we to believe that ARam is Dombrowski’s top target in a market that lacks much to generate enthusiasm? Third base is a thin position in this year’s crop and whatever his failings might be Ramirez is the number one guy. It appears that, since nobody bothered to announce one way or another, Wilson Betemit won’t be getting an arbitration offer so third base is definitely open. Tim Dierkes expects Ramirez to get 3 years and $40+ million – is that something you Tigers fans could live with?

Personally (and now we’re done with the relaying and on to the rehashing) I don’t know that I could. The temptation to make a big free agent splash is certainly there, and there aren’t any bigger splashes at second or third to be had. Nonetheless, signing Ramirez could be the antithesis of smart front office strategy. $43 million isn’t even an extraordinary commitment these days, nonetheless when you make that kind of a financial outlay it pays to be careful – lest you wind up trying to swim with a contract like Adam Dunn‘s pulling you down. Ramirez might keep doing what he’s done over his already successful career, but there are good reasons to think that he might not (and might not benefit the Tigers much even if he did). Let me list the reasons why:
1. Ramirez is 33, and doesn’t field the position well as is. The best case scenario would be that Ramirez would cost the Tigers about a win a year with his glove, while providing 4 wins with his bat. But… fielding requires agility and that’s one of the first things to go with age. He’s already 33 and his glove has been on a steeper slide than his bat, so the worst case scenario is that he simply can’t play third effectively and has to compete with Cabrera and Martinez for at bats. This might be less of a concern for a team like the Twins that does not have a full-time 8-figure DH, but the Tigers really can’t afford to commit to a guy that even might conceivably wind up without a position.
2. He’s a Wrigley field creature. Wrigley is notoriously generous to a certain class of power hitter, and Ramirez fits that mold well. It’s not at all unusual for a hitter to hit better at home no matter where that home is, but I’m not sure Ramirez’ splits are portable. Take a look at these numbers: 2011 Home OPS .951 – Road OPS .795. 2010 Home OPS .866 – Road OPS .632. 2009 Home OPS 1.036 – Road OPS .790. This isn’t exactly the same as trying to predict what a guy like Matt Holliday would do outside of Coors Field, but it certainly looks like cause for concern.
3. He’s hits right-handed. He mashes left-handed pitching. He doesn’t walk enough. Sound familar? It should, he’s a good hitter but he’s the same kind of hitter that the Tigers have in spades already and I’m not sure he’d do much to help improve the team’s winning percentage against right-handed pitchers – which is where they need to improve.
4. He plays the same position as the Tigers ONLY legit position prospect. I’ve said this a million times and I’m sure I’ll wind up saying it a million more: if your budget is not unlimited, you cannot build a consistently competitive team if you aren’t willing to make room for your top prospects. If the Tigers wind up blocking Nick Castellanos and then dealing him for a veteran? They’ll eventually wind up fielding an aging .500 team with a payroll in the top 10 – maybe even top 5 – which is exactly the situation Illitch wound up in in the early ’90s, forcing him to pull the plug and forcing all of us to endure some of the worst baseball the Motor City had ever seen.

Aramis Ramirez would, of course, be an improvement over what the Tigers currently have (the shudder-inducing defense-first platoon of Don Kelly and Brandon Inge) in the near term in any but the worst case scenarios. However, as early as 2013 he might simply be dead weight on the roster in any but the best case scenarios.

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