Thursday, July 23, 2015

Aramis Ramirez's Valedictory Pennant Drive

Aramis Ramirez batted .235 with two homers in 72 games as a 20 year old rookie third baseman for the last place Pirates in 1998. He batted .179 in 18 games for the third place Pirates in 1999. He batted .256 with six homers in 73 games for the fifth place Pirates in 2000. He was one of the best players on the last place 2001 Pirates, batting .300 with 34 homers and a team-leading 112 RBI, but he slumped to .234 with 18 homers the following year. In 2003, after batting .280 with a dozen homers in 96 games, he was traded to the Cubs. He played in Chicago through the 2011 season, making two All-Star teams and receiving MVP votes in four seasons. He signed a free agent contract with the Brewers that winter and had a strong 2012, batting .300 with a league-leading 50 doubles. He missed 70 games in 2013 and in 2014, at 36, he started showing his age, posting a .427 slugging percentage that was his lowest since 2000. This year, which he has announced will be his last, he's batting .247 with a .295 on base percentage and a .430 slugging percentage. 

Along the way, Ramirez has played 2,064 games at third base, the tenth most in history, and he's played his entire career either with the Pirates or in the same division as the Pirates. He's had 1,168 plate appearances--about two full seasons worth--at PNC Park. He has 2,253 plate appearances as a Pirate and 711 as a Pirates opponent.

And he will end his career back in Pittsburgh. This afternoon, the Pirates traded minor league pitcher Yhonathan Barrios to the Brewers for the last ten or so weeks of Ramirez's career. Barrios is 23 year old Colombian (no, he's not a Cuban) who was signed as a shortstop but after batting .196 in 2012 and .143 in 2013, he became a relief pitcher, with a career ERA of 3.12 in 84 games. This year he had ten saves and a 1.46 ERA in 20 games for AA Altoona and one save and a 4.60 ERA for AAA Indianapolis. His high walk rate (3.6 per nine innings) and low strikeout rate (6.6 per nine innings) in the minors do not portend much of a major league career.

For the Pirates, Ramirez will shore up the injury-impaired left side of the infield. With third baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer on the disabled list, the Pirates were looking at Brent Morel (career .225/.275/.325 slash line) at third or Pedro Florimon (an even worse .203/.265/.298) at shortstop, with Jung Ho Kang playing short opposite Morel and third opposite Florimon. Ramirez adds a reasonable right-handed bat at third, allowing Kang to settle in at short at least until Mercer returns in September. It's a low-cost upgrade in that the Pirates are adding Ramirez, who, despite a slow start, has a .247/.295/.430 slash line that's far superior to what Morel and Florimon were likely to generate. 

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