Former Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez
won't have to move very far to join his new team in 2012, as it was announced that the slugger will sign a three-year deal with his former division rival Milwaukee Brewers. Terms were not immediately disclosed and the deal is still pending until a physical is passed, but all signs point to Ramirez opening the upcoming season as the Brewers' starting third baseman.
Ramirez is a two-time National League All Star and is coming off of a very solid season in 2011, when he hit .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI for the Cubs and took home the NL Silver Slugger Award. Over his 14-year big league career (ten with the Cubs), he has 315 home runs, a .284 career average, and with the exception of his 82-game total in 2009 and some serious struggles to start the 2010 campaign, the 33 year-old has been remarkably durable and consistent. Since his first full MLB season in 2001, the Dominican native has averaged 28 home runs and 96 RBI and should provide the Brewers with a reliable offensive force and passable defense at the hot corner.
For the Brewers, this signing marks yet another move to spend money and keep the club competitive, particularly in the wake of losing heavy-hitting first baseman Prince Fielder
via free agency. While it's not official that the club won't re-sign Fielder, his asking price is generally accepted to be beyond their means, and paying Ramirez will now make it even more difficult. The Ramirez deal could also be a preemptive measure to provide some offensive force if NL MVP Ryan Braun
has to miss time due to a recent news story regarding a positive test for a banned substance.
By bringing in Ramirez, the Brewers also signalled their lack of confidence in incumbent third baseman Casey McGehee
, who struggled greatly and hit just .223 with 13 home runs in 2011 after excellent and surprising hitting performances in 2009 and 2010. Unsurprisingly, the club announced that McGehee was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for reliever Jose Veras
just several hours after the Ramirez signing hit the news wire.
For Ramirez, the transition to Milwaukee shouldn't be too difficult, since he'll still be facing most of the same pitchers in the National League and the NL Central Division. He will be 34 years old in June and, particularly after hitting just .179 through the first three months of the 2010 season, there were some questions about his declining numbers, but a strong 2011 walk year has put much of that discussion to rest. His overall performance in 2012 will be affected by the Braun situation and how the rest of the Milwaukee lineup shakes out, but there's no reason to think he won't replicate numbers similar to his 2011 stats, which are pretty well in line with his career averages.
Fantasy owners should select Ramirez with the same confidence as prior seasons, and he'll once again be one of the top offensive third basemen drafted, particularly on the heels of a bounce-back performance in 2011. Milwaukee's Miller Park is very friendly to the team's slugging batters, and Ramirez could certainly reap the benefits of the park's dimensions.
Overall, this move should help the Brewers maintain some of the offensive force they had in 2011, though some aspects of the lineup are still unresolved and Ramirez's final role could vary, depending on how it all shapes up.