The only two big name free agents linked to the Brewers so far during the winter meetings have been Jimmy Rollins and Aramis Ramirez. I'd much prefer pursuit of Rollins if the two look to be similarly expensive. But I'm starting to like the idea of Ramirez in the lineup if the alternative scenario of free agent spending is a couple of bullpen pieces and Yuni. The only problem is that, as a Brewer fan, I don't really like the guy so much. So, here I try to convince myself otherwise.
I think my dislike of the guy goes back to this game right here. I remember the smug little look on his face rounding the bases. Seeing that the Brewers record that day was 46-33 and the Cubs were .500, that makes a bunch of sense. And I don't think there was anything more frustrating that year than watching Turnbow get through a hold and then seeing Cordero blow a save.
For some reason I had this idea that Ramirez had a reputation as a bad clubhouse guy or something but my research seems to indicate that this is not necessarily the case. The only incident I found was this one right here, in which Ramirez was involved in a "scuffle" with Carlos Silva, which is probably to be looked at as commendable. That article makes specific note of the fact that Ramirez has been witness to many incidents in the volatile Cubs dugout but not been involved himself.
Ramirez is a heck of a hitter. He's not an awful defender at third base, but he's not good. Solidly below average seems to be the spot he's settled into as a defender. And if he's around for 3 years, it makes sense that he could play at first base if the need arises.
You don't give out a multi-year deal to a 32 year old corner infielder if you're not confident in his hitting abilities. He's a career .284/.342/.500 hitter and hit .306/.361/.510 last year. He's had an OBP over .350 every year since 2004 with the exception of his brutal campaign in 2010, when he was basically a replacement-level player.
I don't mind Ramirez for this team. But there are few players I don't like for this team at the right price. Overpaying would be a horrible idea, on a 3 year deal I think you can expect 2 quality years of 3-4 WAR and one year of below average production. That's value. But the reason I like Ramirez is because I think he's going to be something of a bargain, the Brewers are now one of the only teams being mentioned as a suitor now that the Phillies seem to have moved on.
Some people have commented on the potential imbalance that could be created by adding another righty bat, that's something I've never been particularly concerned with. A good hitter is a good hitter. If it means the team mashes lefties even more and righties a bit less, I'm confident it's going to balance out. It creates a team more vulnerable to particular matchups later in the season, but we're talking about building a contender right now, not worrying about matchup issues with Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee.
I'm reserving judgement until I see any dollar and year figures on a potential deal with Ramirez. I haven't even seen any sort of figures thrown around yet so it's tough to even know what we're dealing with. I would focus all energies on Rollins for now, but if he gets out of the price range the Brewers are looking at I certainly wouldn't panic if it looks like they're going to end up with Ramirez. Signing Ramirez and a solid defensive shortstop (like Alex Gonzalez), while shoring up the bullpen with a couple of small deals (like the one for Saito being rumored), would be a solid if not flashy offseason, and it would set up the Brewers for plenty of success. Ramirez is most likely an upgrade on 2009-2010 Casey McGehee, and if McGehee figures out how to hit again, there's always first base for one of them to find playing time.
The Brewers won 96 games with 5.8 WAR from their starting corner infielders-- 5.5 from Fielder, and .3 from McGehee. Ramirez and Gamel (with McGehee backing up) can do that. That gets us right back where we started, even bringing back (gasp!) Yuni on a cheap deal. Swing a deal at the trade deadline for a shortstop or bullpen help and we're talking about a World Series contender again.
Ramirez isn't the best course of action, but he's a heck of a lot better than nothing. Hopefully Doug Melvin can get him for a nice, small amount of money for a short amount of time-- if Rollins and some of the other free agents don't look to be options.