December 05, 2011
For teams looking to upgrade at third base this offseason, there's really only one free agent who would move the needle.
Aramis Ramirez(notes) hit .306/.361/.510 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs this past season and none of the other available third baseman even come close to those numbers. That makes Ramirez one of the top targets at this week's Winter Meetings in Dallas.
Several teams would surely love to add Ramirez's bat to their lineup, but after turning down a $16 million option with the Cubs, it's clear he's looking for a far bigger payday. A reported desire for a three-year contract might also scare off potential suitors wary of giving a big contract to a 33-year-old probably on the downside of his career.
But a handful of clubs could meet Ramirez's demands or find the right numbers to sign him. Here are five teams, in order from most likely to least, that might have Ramirez by the end of the week.
Philadelphia Phillies: As the meetings began on Monday, the scuttlebutt centered on the Phillies making a run at Ramirez. Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post tweeted late Monday morning that the NL East champs were "strong players" for the third baseman.
But wait. Don't they already have Placido Polanco(notes)? Well, yes, they do. For now. Ken Rosenthal reports that the Phillies are "actively trying" to move Polanco, having become dismayed with his frequent injuries and lack of power at third base. Power is surely an important consideration for the Phillies with Ryan Howard(notes) out until at least May recovering from a ruptured left Achilles tendon.
Los Angeles Angels: The Halos are another team looking for a power boost at third, having juggled Alberto Callaspo(notes) and Maicer Izturis(notes) (combined 11 home runs) in 2011. Giving Mark Trumbo(notes) a try at third base has been discussed, as he'll move off first base if and when Kendry Morales returns. But a stress fracture in his right foot has prevented Trumbo from practicing at the hot corner this offseason. Signing Ramirez would keep Trumbo where he's comfortable and provide insurance if Morales can't return.
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers are currently looking at a platoon of Brandon Inge(notes) (.197 average in 2011) and Don Kelly(notes) (.245) at third base. Is it any wonder why they're looking at other options? Detroit wants more speed and contact for the top of its lineup. But if that's not available, Ramirez is someone who could get on base in front of Miguel Cabrera(notes) or give the Tigers a much deeper batting order.
Milwaukee Brewers: Milwaukee apparently would prefer that Casey McGehee(notes) or Mat Gamel(notes) play at first base to replace Prince Fielder(notes), rather than play at third base next season. As it is, Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes) was the choice there during the Brewers' stretch run and postseason. But Milwaukee has been rumored to be Ramirez's preferred destination, which puts Doug Melvin in the position of trying to make this work.
Boston Red Sox: Every free-agent chase needs a darkhorse candidate, right? It's a long shot, but could the Red Sox be that team? If David Ortiz(notes) ends up leaving, the team would have a considerable hole in its lineup. Kevin Youkilis(notes) is the incumbent third baseman, but might not be ready to play the position full-time after undergoing sports hernia surgery in early October. He could take Ortiz's DH role, opening up a spot on the infield for Ramirez.