When third baseman Chipper Jones went down last week with a torn ACL, the Atlanta Braves began scrambling to replace his production as they fought to hold onto their lead in the NL East.
And that scrambling has taken them to the Chicago Cubs and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, according to sources at Braves blog Talking Chop. Ramirez, as we know, is plodding through his worst season since before he joined the Cubs in 2003. A deep bone bruise in his left thumb has seemingly robbed him of both his power and his preternatural contact ability. Still, he’s put up an OPS over .800 in each of June, July, and August, and he remains one of the preeminent third baseman in baseball, so the Braves’ interest is not shocking.
Ramirez is due another $3 million or so over the rest of this season, and has a $14.6 million player option for 2011 (plus a $16 million team option for 2012 with a $2 million buyout; so he’d be owed at least $16.6 million if he exercises the 2011 option). Clearly, if the Cubs make a move, it will be all about saving money, because they do not have a third baseman of the future waiting in the wings. Former first round pick Josh Vitters is still not close to making his Major League debut, and Blake DeWitt, a natural third baseman, does not have a big league bat at third base. Dumping Ramirez, no matter how much money the Cubs “save” in the deal, is going to make 2011 that much more difficult.
As for the technicalities of a Ramirez trade, the Cubs would first have to put Ramirez on waivers (if they haven’t already), and hope that a team with a worse record than the Braves does not claim him. Then, if claimed by the Braves, the two sides would be free to work out a deal.