Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez turned 36 years old last month, is in his 17th Major League season, and just played in his 2,000th game. He's also not ready to slow down, as he told the Journal Sentinel that he is fully prepared to and wants to play another 500 games.
The questions is how many of those additional 500 games could come with the Brewers. He'll extend that run a bit this year, but he'll need to play at least three more seasons if he hopes to make it to 2,500.
For now, Ramirez's contract is only guaranteed through this season. There is a mutual option for the 2015 season that would see the Brewers pay him $14 million. If that option is declined by the team, there is a $4 million buyout.
I'm not sure there would be much of a reason for Milwaukee to not exercise their portion of that option. Ramirez has proven that he still has the ability to hit, and his defense has held up alright as well. He was named a starter to the All Star game and though Todd Frazier should have starter, Ramirez was a valid choice to be named to the roster. For performance reasons alone, Ramirez is worth having on the roster.
Then factor in the matter of having absolutely nobody in the franchise to replace him at the hot corner. Jason Rogers isn't good enough or heralded enough to just be handed a starting spot, especially not without competition. He is also new to third base and could probably use more seasoning at the position. He's also the best prospect the Brewers have at the position, at least unless the team decides to move Clint Coulter or Gilbert Lara to third base. Even if they did that, neither of those two are anywhere near sniffing the majors. 2014 fifth round pick Dustin DeMuth could advance quickly, but that doesn't help the Brewers next year.
I can't see the Brewers showing a ton of interest in available free agents, either. That list would include players like Pablo Sandoval, Chase Headley, Casey McGehee and Hanley Ramirez. It's not an impossibility -- the Brewers can no longer be counted out when it comes to free agents. It would still be surprising, though.
And as far as the incentive for Ramirez to exercise the option? That $14 million is pretty close to the qualifying offer's dollar figure. Players like Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales may make Ramirez think twice about testing free agency rather than taking the guaranteed money. If Ramirez would rather have a guaranteed multi-year contract, though, he could choose to test the waters. If he were to do that, the Brewers might remain in negotiations to bring him back with so little talent knocking on the door in the minors.
Overall, I would say there's a real strong possibility that Ramirez is back in a Brewers uniform in 2015. After that, there is a big question mark, though. The Brewers will be shedding big contracts like Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, and Rickie Weeks in that time and thus would have money to bring back Ramirez. If they lose two of their top starters though, would they choose to re-sign a pricey, aging third baseman? How the team performs next season will have a big impact on those decisions to be sure.
For now, however, Aramis Ramirez plans on playing for another few years. The stars seem aligned for him to stick around in Milwaukee at least through 2015, but we'll see if he decides to extend his stay even longer.