The 2014 MLB season was, of course, largely built around Derek Jeter's farewell tour. The Yankees great's age 40 season is something of an exception that proves the recent rule, however.
You see, Jeter, Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter and Red Sox DH David Ortiz were the only three regular position players in all of baseball to qualify for the batting title in their age 37 season or later. The fourth-oldest regular in all of baseball in 2014 was Aramis Ramirez, who turned 36 in June.
Ramirez overcame a (somewhat undeserved) reputation as a slow starter to have a pretty solid first few weeks, batting .347/.395/.493 in his first 20 appearances. His performance slowed a bit after that and he spent much of the month of May on the disabled list, but he still started the All Star Game at third base.
His up-and-down season continued after the break, as Ramirez posted a .541 OPS in July, a .961 mark in August and stumbled across the finish line with a .551 in September. I don't recall Ramirez publicly blaming fatigue for his late struggles, but he did tell reporters during the season's final month that he wasn't sure he wanted to keep playing in 2015.
This is true of several players, but you can draw a pretty distinct correlation between Ramirez's performance and the Brewers' wins and losses. Ramirez hit .344/.375/.545 in his 66 appearances in Brewers wins this season, as opposed to .224/.282/.303 in losses. That's a 336-point swing in OPS, as compared to a 252-point swing for the team as a whole.
Overall, Ramirez has been a major league regular since the 2001 season and has only had one season (2010 with the Cubs) where his numbers were this low. His .757 OPS was down more than 80 points from his career marks, and his 66 RBI were the second-least he's ever had when appearing in at least 100 games.
The challenge, though, is that Ramirez still has some value at a position where the team doesn't have much organizational depth. That's what makes the Brewers' pending decision so important and so difficult.
Ramirez had three hits in 14 different games this season, but the last of those 14 might have been the most important one. Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a double and a walk and drove in a pair of runs against the Marlins on September 9, helping the Brewers tie a game they eventually lost 6-3. He drove in the team's first run with a double in the third, and scored Scooter Gennett with the tying run in the seventh. Here's the latter play:
Ramirez will be the subject of one of the most interesting decisions of the early offseason for the Brewers. They have until early next week to announce their plans to either exercise or decline their portion of Ramirez's $14 million mutual option for 2015, and will have to pay him a $4 million buyout (over two installments in December of 2015 and 2016) if they opt not to bring him back. If the Brewers or Ramirez decline the option, he'll become a free agent.
Either way, however, the Brewers will not be done paying him. $6 million of the $16 million in Ramirez's 2014 salary was deferred and will be split over a pair of payments in December of 2017 and 2018.
Previous MVBrewers posts can be seen at the links below, or in their own dedicated section: