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Fan’s Take: Who Should Play Third Base for the Chicago Cubs in 2012?
Aramis Ramirez(notes) is now a free agent. The Chicago Cubs third baseman who, after turning down the chance to be an All Star, turned on for a terrific second half to the 2011 season, walks away with a reputation as a player who was at his best when the games didn't matter.
Aramis Ramirez's career numbers with the Cubs should not be forgotten; 239 home runs, 806 RBI's and a .294 batting average over his nine seasons, even if most of this number came in meaningless games. Aramis Ramirez will enter free agency as the best third baseman available based on his 26 home runs, 93 RBI's and .306 batting average in 2011.
The Cubs having exercised their half of Ramirez's option seemed to indicate interest in bringing him back for 2011 but Aramis declined, preferring to become a free agent. Ramirez leaving begs the question: who should be the Cubs third baseman in 2012?
22 year old D.J Lemahieu showed flashes of major league ability in his brief call-up in 2011. And while he hasn't had much time at third base, Lemahieu has soft hands and solid defensive instincts that show he can hold down the position well while learning to play it. The one thing holding Lemahieu back is a distinct lack of power. Being only 22 years old however, there is nothing that says he can't develop into a slugger.
Alex Rodriguez(notes) began his career at shortstop before moving to third base, why not Starlin Castro. Yes, Castro will need to improve his defense, he committed 29 errors in 2011, but he may be less of a liability at third than he is now at shortstop. Castro has yet to develop into the power hitter a team would prefer at third but every indication is that Castro will start hitting homers as he matures.
Josh Vitters was the Chicago Cubs number one pick in the 2007 draft and has yet to live up to the hype of a number one pick. In fact, in 2010 it looked as if Vitters was becoming one of the biggest draft busts of all time. 2011 however, showed a great deal of improvement for Vitters with 14 home runs and 89 RBI's in 129 games with the Cubs double A team in Tennessee.
Vitters is continuing to impress with his bat for the Cubs Arizona Fall League team. Vitters' strikeouts are down, just 54 in 449 at bats in Arizona. That said, Vitters has yet to make a start at third base in Arizona. Vitters has been taking the field at first base and in the outfield leading to speculation that the team has other plans for him than third base.
The free agent options at third base are brutal. Take away Aramis Ramirez and the list gets real ugly real fast. According to a report from About.com the next best third base free agents are Ramirez are Wilson Betemit(notes), Greg Dobbs(notes), former Cub Mark Derosa(notes) and Casey Blake(notes) who, according to some, is considering retirement at age 38.
Finally, there is the outside chance of resigning Aramis Ramirez. Yes, Aramis turned down a $16 million option to return after the Cubs had offered to renew but that just means that Ramirez wants to test the waters. He is the best third baseman available and with the Cubs lacking a
The bottom line is, there is no ideal third baseman at the moment. The Cubs can either commit to one of the young players I've mentioned or try to bring back Ramirez and hope the price isn't too steep.
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