The only thing more tantalizing that trade talk this time of year is trade talk involving my two favorite teams. So when ESPN’s baseball beat reporter, Bruce Levine reported that one of the Tigers’ top scouts was in Chicago this weekend to evaluate firsthand the talents of Cubs third basemen, Aramis Ramirez, I was intrigued. But the more I think about it, the more I HATE the idea of bringing in the aging vet to man the Motor City’s hot corner.
It’s obvious the Tigers could use some help at 3B with Brandon Inge falling apart before our eyes with a pathetic .180 average, 17 RBI and 1 home run this season. But while A-Rams offensive numbers are certainty enticing (.300, 56 RBI, 16 HRs), they come with a lot of unwanted baggage.
With the addition of Ramirez (no-trade clause notwithstanding), the Tigers would be creating an admittedly solid offensive infield, but one with almost no range defensively with Jhonny Peralta at SS, the returning (and aged) Carlos Guillen at 2B and Miguel Cabrera at first. A-Ram can only get to balls within reach of his La-Z-Boy these days, so assuming every ground ball won’t be hit directly at each of these lumbering vets, things would become even more difficult on a pitching staff that already ranks near the bottom in the AL. And despite the old adage that “chicks dig the long ball,” when you really look at it, the Tigers don’t need a ton of help offensively, as they currently rank in the top third of the AL in Runs, Hits and OBP.
But if they do decide to forsake defense for some added pop for the stretch run and, ultimately, the playoffs, A-Ram has shown a tendency to wilt under the spotlight. In his playoff appearances in ’07 and ’08, Ramirez went just 2 for 23 (.086) with zero home runs and zero RBI. Even Inge would be able to replicate those numbers.
Another well-documented issue is Ramirez’s motivation. Having seen him at Clark & Addison for the last 8 years, I can tell you he only plays hard when he feels like it. Maybe he’d feel motivated for a playoff run with Detroit, but I’m not willing to bet on it.
The roughly $10 million price tag around Ramirez’s neck doesn’t concern me, but the prospects he’d cost does. The Cubs are sure to absorb a lot of money he’s due and Tiger’s (and Little Caesar’s) owner, Mike Illich has plenty of pizza “dough” to throw around. He’s shown he’s willing to spend what it takes when he thinks they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Unfortunately, his and GM Dave Dombrowski’s efforts have gone for naught (Peralta in 2010, Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff in 2009) and I think this would be yet another trade deadline move that yields little fruit.
So if not Ramirez, then who? Considering the dearth of 3B talent available (Wilson Betemit, KC? Mark Reynolds, BAL? PASS) the Tigers would be better off looking elsewhere. If they are convinced they need offensive help then move Peralta back to 3B and go after a shortstop. The Mets Jose Reyes is probably unrealistic and very costly considering the competition for his services. But the price tag would be far more reasonable for someone like the Dodgers’ struggling SS, Rafael Furcal, but I’m not sure he would really solve any issues.
The Tigers real need is pitching. The old adage I subscribe to is “pitching wins championships.” Justin Verlander is going to win the Cy Young, but there are questions about the consistency of Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, and Fat Penny. The Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda (3.13 ERA), Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez (one year removed from being a Cy Young candidate), and the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez (3.67 ERA) would all fit nicely into the number 2 or 3 slot in the rotation and would address the Tigers’ salient issue.
So I’m imploring you, Dave—do the right thing, not the trendy thing and go after pitching instead of A-Ram or other overvalued bats. You’ll be thanking me in October (and the city of Detroit and I will be thanking you).