After weeks of apparent flip-flopping, yesterday, Aramis Ramirez did his best to put out the definitive statement on his desire to remain with the Chicago Cubs through the trade deadline and into 2012.
Problem is, the statement didn’t really sound much different than the confusing will-he-won’t-he remarks he made on Thursday.
“I think I was misunderstood yesterday,” Ramirez said. “I haven’t read the paper, but a couple of people have told me that the way it came out was like I want to leave, like I was ready to so somewhere else, and that’s not the case. All I want to say is, what I tried to say yesterday was, I talked to Jim a couple weeks ago, and we were on the same page. If he wants me here, then I want to stay here.
“I know I’m not out there; they’re not shopping me around. My whole point is I’m not on the market, as far as I know.”
But when asked flat out, if the Cubs came to him with a trade, would he veto the deal, Ramirez once again suggested he might accept a trade.
“That has to happen first. After that happens, I’ll see what’s going on.”
As for Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry, he was a little more pointed. But, even his comments suggest there’s more than meets the eye going on behind the scenes.
[Ramirez] has always expressed to me this is where he’d rather be, and his preference is to stay, and that’s really all there is to it,” Hendry said. “He won’t be traded by 3 o’clock on Sunday, and that’s his right. And that being said, he knows there’s no guarantee he’ll be back next year. And there’s no guarantee that he won’t be.”
Doesn’t that strike you as an odd way to say “we’re definitely not trading Aramis Ramirez this year”? Why say “he won’t be traded by 3 o’clock on Sunday” unless the possibility of an August trade, at a minimum, is being left open? Why say “he knows there’s no guarantee he’ll be back next year” unless you’re nudging him to accept a trade?
To me, Ramirez’s statements – all taken together – sound like someone who genuinely would prefer to stay in Chicago long-term, but who realizes that may not be possible (in part because his GM may not be back next year, and may not have the authority to commit to Ramirez beyond this year – more on this below). So, Ramirez wants to make clear that he’s not looking to leave. But, if the Cubs were actively pushing him out the door or looking to do a total rebuild next year, he would consider specific trades that they might bring to his attention.
Hendry’s statements sound like those of a guy who would like to make some moves – perhaps including pushing Ramirez out the door – but, for reasons unknown, cannot.
So, the question is: why aren’t the Cubs pushing Ramirez out the door?
I’m not entirely sure, but I have my guesses.
Primarily, I’d point to the parenthetical in the earlier paragraph. Imagine for a moment that everyone in the Cubs’ organization knows and accepts that Jim Hendry’s tenure with the Cubs will end after the season. Likewise, imagine that his replacement necessarily hasn’t been chosen yet, and Tom Ricketts wants that person (or persons, if the structure changes) to build the team his way – which may or may not include Aramis Ramirez.
By trading Ramirez, the Cubs close off the possibility of Ramirez manning third in 2012 for the Cubs, something which the new man in charge could deem necessary after he evaluates the Cubs’ prospects, trade possibilities, and free agency. Ramirez is in a unique situation being an older guy with an expensive club option for 2012, on a team that doesn’t quite know what direction it wants to take over the next couple years. It may not be as simple as Ricketts issuing an edict that Ramirez is to be forced out.
This theory certainly comports with Ramirez’s seemingly changing stance (it seems ever-changing because he’s not sure where he or Hendry stand) and Hendry’s bizarre way of saying Ramirez won’t be traded.
Add to all of that Ramirez’s genuine desire to remain with the Cubs, his no-trade rights, and the current front office’s affection for him, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a guy staying put when the wise thing to do for everyone would be to make a trade. Call it another form of Cubby Luck.
Were I a betting man, I’d say I’m pretty close, and I’d take all comers.