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Aramis Ramirez a sensible deal for Brewers

I’m late to the party on the Aramis Ramirez writing, but there’s been some good stuff written about the move already. Jack Moore wrote the move up at FanGraphs, and sees it as an upgrade at third. Ryan Topp recapped it for Bernie’s Crew, and doesn’t like it nearly as much.

My feelings fall somewhere in the middle. There’s definite risk involved in forking over $36 million for a guy’s age 34, 35, and 36 seasons. That risk is increased when that player isn’t great defensively to begin with, and whose value is tied up in his power. Plus there’s a chance I haven’t forgiven him for June 29, 2007. This is like the Indians signing Jack Parkman in Major League 2.

Still, there’s no doubting that when healthy, Ramirez is the kind of bat the Brewers needed in the lineup, even before it was a possibility Ryan Braun could miss the first 50 games of the season. Ramirez should provide the type of offense at third that the Brewers haven’t seen since Braun was shoehorned into the position.

Trying to predict Ramirez’s production going forward isn’t easy, considering he battled a nasty shoulder injury through most of 2009 and struggled for much of 2010. He rebounded this past season, though, and looked more like the Ramirez of old while hitting .306/.361/.510 in 149 games. While most people seem to think Ramirez’s decline will be quick and ugly, it’s hard to imagine him falling too far from a line like that in just three seasons. For at least 2012, he should slot nicely into the cleanup spot. He’ll chase more pitches than Prince Fielder and won’t have quite as much power, but it does beat having Rickie Weeks hit 4th (and this is coming from someone who really likes what Weeks can do).

We can’t pretend that the defense won’t be a concern, either, especially in Ramirez’s increasing age. He’s faced plenty of accusations of not caring, but it seems much more likely that he’s just not any good with the glove. He’s just as capable of making exceptional plays as any big leaguer, but he’s been consistently below average in every component of UZR for much of his career. He’s also been lackluster when it comes to Defensive Runs Saved, actually coming in at double digit runs below average the past two seasons (-10 and -12, respectively). He hasn’t had a positive DRS season since 2007, when he was +11. This doesn’t inspire much confidence for 2012 and beyond.

If there’s good news, it’s that Alex Gonzalez manning shortstop should help lessen the negative impact of Ramirez at third. Gonzalez and Ramirez make for an old left side of the infield, sure, but might actually be a net gain defensively over last year’s pairing. How the defense looks beyond 2012 is a different question, and one the Brewers seem like they’ll address once they get to that point.

For now, this seems like a reasonable enough move that improves both fan morale and team quality. If Braun does end up missing the first 50 games of the season, having a player like Ramirez in the lineup does increase the team’s odds of keeping their heads above water. Going 25-25 just might be enough to keep the Brewers in the division race, considering how wide open things look.

One last thing: I’m attaching the “Shredder” projections Clubhouse Confidential on MLB Network did on Ramirez a few weeks ago. They aren’t too kind since they assume he’s leaving Wrigley Field (a hitter-friendly environment) and entering a neutral park. Luckily, Ramirez’s power numbers shouldn’t be negatively impacted by moving to Miller Park, so the actual numbers he’s projected for in the piece probably don’t apply. Still, it’s an interesting segment worth checking out.