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Today we take a look at Brewers third baseman and career NL Central member, Aramis Ramirez. After playing for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez joined the Crew prior to the 2012 season on a 3 year, $36 million deal.
Originally signed to take the sting out of Prince Fielder‘s move to Detroit, Ramirez had a stellar first season with the Brewers, posting a .901 OPS while leading the NL with 50 doubles. After his strong year, Ramirez missed significant time in 2013, appearing in 92 games while missing most of April and July.
Ramirez still posted a solid .831 OPS, but his missed time took a serious toll on the Brewers, who desperately missed him offensively. This season his OPS has dropped to .790, but he has continued to be an important piece to a team with few other options at the hot corner.
While $16 million is a steep price to pay for 2014, the Brewers are in the top third in WAR at third base, with Ramirez leading the charge. It is also worth noting that his contract is hugely back-loaded, and he was just paid $6 mil for his great year in 2012.
Ramirez has a mutual $14 million option for the 2015 season, and if the Brewers wish to contend next season, the organization should attempt to retain the 17 year veteran, as he has no clear successor.
The Brewers have a shallow farm system, and third base is no exception. While a few of the Brewers top prospects are third baseman, none are likely to join the Major League club as early as next season.
Though Ramirez is the best option the Brewers have for next year, he has not been performing at expectations. There is no doubt that 2013 and 2014 have been down years for Ramirez based on his Cubs years, with this year being especially concerning.
So far in 2014, Ramirez has a walk rate half that of his career average, and- as in 2013- he has knocked significantly fewer extra base hits than in 2011 and 2012. Despite these shortcomings, Ramirez is third in WAR among Brewers, and he is still the team’s most oft used clean-up hitter.
There is no questioning that Ramirez is having a down year, but he is still a solid bat in the middle of the lineup. He is also the only real choice the Brewers have at third base, unless the Brewers re-sign Mark Reynolds or bring in a free agent to fill in full time.
Ramirez has great value with the Brewers, especially considering the patchwork nature of first base, where the Crew is getting less production, and where there again appears to be no clear heir apparent. The Brewers could save a serious amount of money by passing on Ramirez in 2015, but they could also be passing on their post-season hopes.