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2013 MLB Trade Deadline: Brewers Could Find it Difficult to Trade Aramis Ramirez

Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez
Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez

Jul 3, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez (16) waits on deck in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

For years, Aramis Ramirez has been one of the top power-hitting third basemen in the National League. Since bursting onto the scene in 2001 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ramirez has been slugging home runs at a consistent pace.

From that season early in his career through 2012, he has hit at least 25 home runs in every year except two – in 2003, Ramirez’ home run totals dipped to 18 and in an injury-plagued 2009 when he played in only 82 games, he hit 15. He has an impressive 347 home runs in his career and at 35, he should still have opportunities to add to that total.

In an era where steroids have surrounded power hitters more often than not, Ramirez’ name has been free of such talk. He never put up the eye-popping home run totals as some of his peers, but by all indications, he’s consistently been one of the clean power hitters of this generation.

After playing his first few years in Pittsburgh, Ramirez was traded to the Chicago Cubs along with Kenny Lofton for a bucket of used baseballs, Matt Bruback, Jose Hernandez, and Bobby Hill in what surely has gone down as one of the worst swaps in recent memory. He spent the bulk of his career there before heading to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012.

At 34 and in his first season with the Brew Crew, Ramirez had one of his best seasons of his career, batting an even .300, slugging 27 home runs, and driving in 105 runs in 2012. Ramirez also led the league in doubles with 50 and his 308 total bases were the most he’s had in his career since 2006.

What a difference a year makes.

Ramirez isn’t having a terrible season but he is struggling and his power has dropped off considerably. Part of the decline in his stats is due to some injury troubles – he has played in only 54 games this year. Even with that taken into consideration his numbers are far below the norm. If Ramirez were to play a full season, he’d be on pace for only approximately 16 home runs and 80 RBI – both would be the lowest in a full season of his entire career where he played at least 145 games.

With the Brewers far out of playoff contention, they’ve become heavy sellers in the trade deadline market and it’s no surprise that they’d like to deal Ramirez. Problem is, that likely won’t be very easy.

Ramirez is still batting a healthy .271 so far this season and is a solid defensive player – he has only two errors this season and last year, led the National League in fielding percentage for a third baseman. But the slugger’s numbers are mostly approaching the lowest they’ve ever been. He can surely help a team, but the question is how much?

The biggest problem with trying to trade Ramirez is his monster salary. He was a bargain last year at only $6 million, but this year is earning $10 million. There’s still a good chunk of change left on a prospective team’s books for 2013 and things get even worse next year when he is due a whopping $16 million. Ramirez also is set to earn $14 million in 2015 and while he can be bought out of his salary, that will cost $4 million. All told, between the remainder of this season, 2014, and a 2015 buyout, Ramirez would cost his new team about $25 million. A few years ago, that might not have sounded so bad. But with Ramirez’ significant decline this season, that’s a ton of cash.

Still, there are always those willing to spend money even if the upgrade is relatively minimal. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reports that the Yankees and Red Sox, two of baseball’s biggest spenders, will both likely be interested in Ramirez when he is expected to come off of the DL next week.

The interest by each team is more than a little curious. The Yankees are expecting to get Alex Rodriguez back any day now. He’s fallen out of favor in New York the last couple of seasons, but it’s difficult to believe they wouldn’t want to at least give him a chance to hold down the spot at third base.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have promising 23-year-old rookie, Jose Iglesias, at third. The young infielder is batting a whopping .367 this season and Boston clearly isn’t taking him out of the order anytime soon. Iglesias plays shortstop, too, but Boston has given Stephen Drew the bulk of the starts there. Theoretically, a Ramirez/Iglesias combo could be more appealing than a Drew/Iglesias duo, but Ramirez hasn’t been lighting the world on fire. Is it really worth it to the Red Sox to pay him that much money when they have other options like Drew or even Brock Holt, who has been playing a lot lately and batting nearly .300?

Both teams already have manageable options at DH as well, so bringing Ramirez in to play there wouldn’t make much sense.

The Brewers wanting to deal Ramirez makes all the sense in the world. But with declining stats and a hefty salary, finding a trade partner may not prove to be an easy proposition.

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