The Brewers need to answer.
Their arch-rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, just acquired perennial All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Rockies and gave up….practically nothing to get him. The Cardinals have positioned themselves as the clear favorite in the NL Central in 2021 as most everyone else is taking a step back.
The only team that hasn’t really taken a step back in terms of their roster construction is the Brewers. They’ve mostly stood pat to this point and haven’t been going forwards or backwards. It’s clear the Cardinals took a big step forward, now the question is if the Brewers will do the same.
If they have plans to contend for the division title and, in effect, the World Series in 2021, then they need to make an equally big addition to their ballclub.
Jose Ramirez of the Indians is the perfect addition.
The Cleveland Indians are rumored to be shopping 3B Jose Ramirez and the Milwaukee Brewers should be immediately interested and frankly they need to trade for him.
This is the only course of action that could answer the move the Cardinals just made. A guy like Maikel Franco or Jake Lamb might be a solid, sensible addition, but it won’t be enough to move the Brewers closer to overtaking the Cardinals at this point.
Jose Ramirez, 28, might be the only third baseman available that can move the needle for the Crew to stand a decent chance of winning the division. Justin Turner is out there as a free agent, but he’s also older and will cost far more money.
In 2021, Ramirez is under contract for just $9.4MM and has two club options for $11MM and $13MM in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
For the offensive numbers he puts up, that’s an absolute bargain. Over the past five years, Ramirez has hit .290/.366/.529 with a 133 OPS+, 119 homers and 107 stolen bases. Averaged out over 162 games, Ramirez hits 24 homers a year and steals 21 bases. He’s never struck out more than 80 times in a season.
Getting the opportunity to add a 20/20 player with great all around offensive numbers that makes contact, has power, and speed with a very team-friendly contract doesn’t come around very often and it needs to be taken advantage of when it’s there.
That’s what the Brewers did when they traded for Christian Yelich three years ago. He was an ascending player with great offensive ability on a team-friendly deal that his current team was willing to sell off. Ramirez is in the same kind of situation, and David Stearns should move quickly to strike.
The Brewers farm system isn’t as deep in prospects as it was three years ago, however. With three years of team control at a very friendly salary, acquiring Ramirez will be costly.
What Could A Jose Ramirez Trade Cost The Brewers?
The Indians need outfield help. They have needed it for years. David Stearns has also been accumulating outfielders for years and has plenty in the organization.
In terms of immediate help to the big league club, the Brewers can offer Corey Ray, who has a 40 man spot and is blocked in Milwaukee. After struggling with a few nagging injuries, Ray should be fully healthy in 2021 and could do well with a change of scenery.
The Indians will likely ask for Garrett Mitchell in the trade as well, but I’m not convinced he’s 100% vital to a deal happening or if Stearns would even be willing to include his latest first round pick.
An alternative to including Mitchell would be to have Tristen Lutz in the package instead. Lutz is also an outfielder with big power and a big bat. He’s said to have made some improvements in 2020 at the Alternate Site and could intrigue Cleveland.
While the position player prospects in a potential Ramirez trade can be up for debate, I think it’s a foregone conclusion that if the Brewers were to acquire Ramirez, it would cost them one of their “Big Three” left-handed pitching prospects. It would have to cost at least one of Ethan Small, Aaron Ashby, or Antoine Kelly.
If the Indians do a deal with the Brewers for Jose Ramirez and it doesn’t include one of those three, I’ll be shocked and Stearns would once again prove himself to be a wizard.
At this point, with where the Brewers and Cardinals rosters stand, the Crew needs to trade for Ramirez if they’re going to give themselves a decent shot at winning this division.