Is Aramis Ramirez Insane?

Word out of Chicago is that Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez might reject a $14.6 million player option for the 2011 season. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which nearly any person would turn down $16.6 million in guaranteed money ($2 million from a buyout of a 2012 team option). It’s especially difficult when said person carried a .297 OBP into play yesterday. Ramirez has played as a below average player in 2010 so far, compiling 0.9 WAR in 441 plate appearances. That kind of performance would be good for closer to $4 million on the free agent market than $14 million.

But there are two important things to consider with this situation. First of all, Ramirez is quite likely much better than he’s been this year. ZiPS projects him for a .371 wOBA going forward, well above the league average and fantastic for a third baseman. A .371 wOBA wouldn’t put him on the 4.5-5.5 WAR level that he was at from 2006-2008 and would have been in 2009 if not for injury, but it could be somewhere in the 3.5-4.5 WAR range, which would put his market value right around that $14.6 million dollar range.

Second of all, Ramirez would be making a substantial amount of money next year, but he would also risk complete collapse in 2011, which would make his current contract his last contract. Even if teams don’t buy the rebirth imagined above, it’s hard to imagine that teams wouldn’t still look at him as an average player. Ramirez still has big time power, with 22 HRs and a .211 ISO. His defense is probably below average – all of the systems available here on FanGraphs have him below average in 2008, 2009, and 2010 when available. Still, with that kind of bat, his defense would have to be exceptionally bad for him to produce at a below average level, barring another season with a .246 batting average on balls in play. At that level, it would be quite easy to see Ramirez earning something like a 3-year, $27 million contract, and if his past seasons are given more (and proper) weight, he could see something as high as 3 years, $40 million, both paying much more than his current player option.

The potential for Ramirez to forego $16 million likely has some in Chicago scratching their heads, both around the Cubs organization and in the streets of the North Side. But when you consider the length of his contract, his current skill level, and the possibility of collapse with age, it may make sense for Ramirez to go for another long term contract while he has the chance. There’s a good chance that Ramirez’s best option, in terms of dollar amounts, would be to take his player option and then go for another contract for the 2012 season and beyond. If Ramirez wants to avoid the risk of collapse, however, as odd as it may sound, his best option may be to test the free agent market a year earlier and eschew the guaranteed money.




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41 Responses to “Is Aramis Ramirez Insane?”

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  1. Mr Punch says:

    A relevant comp here is Beltre – he’s got to be glad he took a one-year deal to re-establish his value. It seems to me that a player who’s terrified that his collapse in permanent is a poor risk for a long-term contract.

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    • Rich says:

      Right, but unlike Beltre, he has the option of a 1 year 15M option.

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      • Z2 says:

        Exactly, Beltre got a 1yr/10m prove-it deal, Ramirez already has a 14.6m prove it deal.

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      • NEPP says:

        Exactly…however, is Ramirez playing hurt or is it a slow decline (what it really looks like).

        Beltre knew he was hurt and would likely, if healthy, have a solid year in 2010…especially in a ballpark built for his bat.

        Ramirez would be an idiot to turn down this option.

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  2. James says:

    I guarantee he’ll pick it up once the games are over and he won’t have to answer to reporters about it for 4 months… The only way he wouldn’t is if he’s either retiring or totally oblivious to what happened to old declining players over the last offseason (see, for example, Jermaine Dye).

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    • this guy says:

      Except that Aramis is 4 years younger and before this year, was a 900 OPS machine for 6 straight seasons. He played through injury this year and it hurt his numbers, but he’s an elite player. Additionally. this happens to be a down period for 3Bs, which makes him more marketable than usual.

      None of this fits into the desired narrative here at Fangraphs, so it’s conveniently omitted. Luckily for them, most of their readers are too stupid to realize this.

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      • Peter Gammons says:

        None of this fits into the desired narrative here at Fangraphs, so it’s conveniently omitted

        Did you even read the article? The entire second paragraph says this.

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      • this guy says:

        Where does it mention that he was hurt in 2010, or that he’s been remarkably consistent for 6 straight years?

        Crawl back in the cave. There is no potential for you to offer anything meaningful to this discussion.

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      • Jason B says:

        “None of this fits into the desired narrative here at Fangraphs, so it’s conveniently omitted. Luckily for them, most of their readers are too stupid to realize this.”

        Jesus dude. Someone kick your dog?

        “Crawl back in the cave. There is no potential for you to offer anything meaningful to this discussion.”

        You sure told him! Gammons will NEVER come back! Bwahahahaha. *HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND*

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    • Kevin says:

      Aramis is only 32 compared to JD’s 36. I don’t think the market has reacted that poorly to 32 year olds. Sans April and May, Aramis has been close to his normal self. K levels are down, ISO shot back up, and he seems to be playing close to the level we expected him to play all season.

      If he is worried that he is going to decline (he has been injury prone more or less his entire career…), there is good reason to get a new contract this year than take that 16mil. I think it’s safe to assume he could garner more than 8mil a year going through his 35yo season. It’s not that farfetched

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      • mb21 says:

        Yeah, the smart thing for Ramirez to do is to opt out and sign another long-term contract, which he’ll get. He won’t get as much per year as he will earn in 2011, but at his age overall money should be more important than average annual salary. Plus, he’s been better than his career numbers since June. Opting out is the only thing that makes sense and it’s unfortunate that people don’t understand that. Of course he’s going to opt out. He’d be an idiot not to.

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  3. WY says:

    All of this fancy analysis overlooks the simple fact that Ramirez’ performance before and after his return from injury after going on the DL in June has been a matter of night and day. His OPS was sub-.500 for the first two months of the year and has been above .900 since then.

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    • this guy says:

      You’re being too comprehensive for this audience. The “couch saber community” likes to select data points that support the narrative that they decided upon before processing at any data. They learned it from their masters.

      Welcome to modern day “intellectualism”.

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      • Anon says:

        Kind of like what you did when you ignored the 2nd paragraph of this post. Whoops!

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      • this guy says:

        It doesn’t mention that he’s been injured in 2010, nor does it mention that he’s been remarkably consistent for SIX years.

        Google “Reading Comprehension” you baboon.

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      • Anon says:

        “But there are two important things to consider with this situation. First of all, Ramirez is quite likely much better than he’s been this year. ZiPS projects him for a .371 wOBA going forward, well above the league average and fantastic for a third baseman. A .371 wOBA wouldn’t put him on the 4.5-5.5 WAR level that he was at from 2006-2008 and would have been in 2009 if not for injury, but it could be somewhere in the 3.5-4.5 WAR range, which would put his market value right around that $14.6 million dollar range.”

        So…you were saying?

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      • this guy says:

        I’m done with you. This dialogue speaks for itself. I don’t aim to cater to the audience that is stupid enough to think you have a point anyway.

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      • Anon says:

        You’re right. He didn’t mention that Ramirez is likely much better than what he’s shown this year, or how good he was before this year. I must be reading some other post.

        Keep trolling, douchebag.

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      • this guy says:

        To even moderately intelligent people, there’s a difference between some random writer saying “he’s probably better than this” and “he’s been one of the most consistently dominant hitters over the past 6 years”.

        You need to cover up. Your agenda is showing.

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      • Nick says:

        Hmm, maybe the writer believes his audience is already aware of those facts and doesn’t need to state the obvious? Or maybe those facts were pretty clearly implied by the analysis? Or both?

        If you think the analysis is bunk, and we’re all retards, go find someone you like and quit trolling.

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      • BIP says:

        @this guy: You are wrong. ZiPS projections take past performance into account, so for those of us who do have “reading comprehension,” the article does in fact point out his long track record of performance. I’m sorry it wasn’t spelled out clearly enough for you to figure it out.

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    • Ryan says:

      Staying healthy is a skill. Playing hurt is a skill. Given ARam’s penchant for getting hurt, particularly in ways that sap his production, makes his early season performance very much a point for debate.

      We know he’s probably going to get hurt sometime during his next contract, and because of that it’d be stupid to only look at his numbers “while healthy.”

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      • this guy says:

        Which were exceptionally consistent for 6 consecutive seasons.

        Build a list of players who are comparable in year to year performance. It’s an extremely short list.

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      • Anon says:

        Don’t talk to “this guy.” Hypocritical, selective reading jackass.

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      • GrouchoM says:

        Maybe you should look at the numbers before you go spouting off something stupid like “staying healthy is a skill”. Here are his PA for the years 2001-2008 :

        655,570,670,606,506,660,558,645

        Only one year with an OPS below 900 and one year with fewer than 550 plate appearances. How the hell is that NOT “staying healthy” over a prolonged period of time? So please keep the Cubs’ hatred to yourself. Or do you seriously believe he has zero chance of ever having a full season again?

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  4. jeffrey gross says:

    As a Cubs fan, I could not be happier if Aramis Ramirez lets us out from under $30 million of salary. I’d rather have a cheaper and as effective Beltre or just go slim pickings off the WW as the Cubs aren’t going anywhere for a few more seasons anyway

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    • Kevin says:

      I’m not 100% sure Hendry will “rebuild.” Ricketts just got here and I’m sure he is in no hurry to assume a losing season and see empty seats in Wrigley starting in May instead of August

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      • Anon says:

        Because there’s been so many empty seats in Wrigley in other losing seasons, right?

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      • mike says:

        Maybe thats what this team needs for Hendry to get it through his thick skull that throwing money at over priced players is not going to bring a World Series to Wrigley Field.

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      • Kevin says:

        The last time the Cubs were out of it at the all star break was 2006, and 2006 was their lowest attendance in the past 5 seasons. 2005 was worse than 2006, and their attendance was lower. 1000 seats less per home game is ~2.5 million dollars for Wrigley… Figure they’ll be anywhere from 35-39 (2001 low was 35,000 per game), you’re looking at 1.5mil – 11mil difference in attendance money… So yes, attendance does fluctuate in wrigley when the team isn’t winning.

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    • Steve says:

      Beltre is not going to be “cheaper”. Or not meaningfully cheaper, anyway.

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    • Rich says:

      There’s no way in hell Beltre is going to be cheaper.

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  5. Souldrummer says:

    Perhaps he would like to go a team where he could win and get more positive exposure. Perhaps he would like to avoid being the whipping boy in Chicago if he’s not carrying the team on his back. I’m not close to the situation but perhaps there are some non-monetary reasons for making that choice. Could just be tired of the Cubs microscope in a likely losing environment.

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  6. Jim Rouse says:

    The Tigers could use him. Inge plays a nice 3B, but his bat is horrible. How about a straight up trade, Chicago?

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    • Daniel says:

      Although we have no evidence to back this up, I’m surprised that this reason isn’t raised more often when discussing ARam. He came close to a World Series once; would it be that shocking if he wanted another shot? He knows the Cubs aren’t going to give it to him (well, never say never, but I won’t be betting on them). I don’t know what the man has done with his money, but he has earned a lot of it already in his career. Maybe he simply doesn’t care about the extra 3/4 million he’d get from staying in Chicago.

      Of course, I have nothing to base that idea on.

      Personally, I like the guy. He’s had a good second half; he was untouchable either side of the All-Star break. He’s had great years in Chicago. But the Cubs need him to go. I think ownership is going to try to skimp on money while making it look like they’re trying to contend. If ARam, it puts the team that much farther back that they might be forced to contemplate a real rebuilding process. It’s not like they don’t have the prospects and the market-base to contend in a few years if they take the right approach. The acid test is going to be the draft net summer. The Cubs are going to be a hard club to support if the go under-slot with the high first round pick that’s coming to them.

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    • Michael says:

      A trade would be difficult because Ramirez has a $16m option for 2012 that becomes guaranteed if he’s traded.

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  7. DRM says:

    This is all about the situation with the Cubs. Ramirez is not even thinking about money. He wants to play for a competitive team under a manager he likes…and from everything he’s had to say this season, he was deeply frustrated under Piniella. Ramirez wants to play in a better situation, simple as that.

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  8. Dudley says:

    interesting article, though i’m not sure exactly what you’re assuming with respect to risk preferences.

    i suppose we could assume that a player is risk averse, hence a willingness to accept slightly less than pure expected value in terms of $/WAR to hedge against the risk of receiving nothing upon complete collapse.

    teams, however, would probably be risk neutral or perhaps even risk-seeking, because a lot of things need to break right for a team to win a world series, anyway. are these the sorts of assumptions you’re making?

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  9. o971 says:

    I think unless he feels he’s on the verge of collapse he’ll accept the option. I honestly don’t see how he could even get 16 million over the course of the next 2 years. One thing this article fails to mention is that his BABIP sits at a paltry .248 much lower than his career .283 BABIP. In the 2 months that it’s around that or above it he is OPSing well over .900 combined. While that period is just over 200 PAs, the fact that his numbers have been steadily improving throughout the season, would seem to make him a good buy low option should he accept the option and the cubs want to shed part of that enormous salary.
    Another thing that is commonly overlooked here is the fact that he has made over 87 million dollars in his career, if he wanted to he could go to a winning team on the (relatively) cheap just to try to get a ring.

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    • Dann M says:

      The big conflagration in the early-mid part of the comments made explicit what Jack referenced/implied in his article: that Ramirez was playing with an injured thumb for the first half of the season. He was on the DL from 6/7-6/24.

      Pre-DL: .168/.232/.285, .189 babip, 45 K in 198 PA (23%)
      Post-DL: .302/.348/.587, .287 babip, 32 K in 244 PA (13%)
      Career (thru 09): .286/.344/.503, .291 babip, 799 K in 5825 PA (14%)

      His defense has regressed greatly because he’s slow and prone to leg problems. He was never agile, but his arm remains strong. He has no lateral range. Whether that’s reaction speed or lingering timidity from the shoulder separation, it’s an issue.

      Ramirez can probably only be penciled in for 3/4 of a season at this point if he’s playing the field. Perhaps he’s considering a late-career move to 1st base like Brett or Schmidt for a team that needs it (though third is still a greater need league-wide). Or perhaps he’s thinking that an AL team might pay a premium for a 3B who can also DH, which he might be able to adjust to (NL player, small sample size, etc. – who knows?)

      Boston might not be able to re-sign Beltre. Texas might want to make a splash with new owners and use him as Vlad/Moreland insurance (still room for 500 PA for Ramirez between those 2 spots and Young at 3B). The Twins are still running Nick Punto out there in tandem with Danny Valencia, and will likely need to replace Jim Thome anyway. The White Sox still need a DH who is more stable than Manny. There are spots in the AL.

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