The trade that has to be made

Player A:  .289/.391/.513  15 HR  .392 wOBA

Player B:  .296/.337/.515  19 HR  .367 wOBA

These are 2011 numbers for two National League players.  Player A was just recently traded.  Player B should be traded, but unfortunately, it ain’t that simple.

That isn’t a ton of evidence to go off of, but you may have guessed that Player A is Carlos Beltran, who earlier this week approved a deal that sent him to San Francisco.  Player B is Aramis Ramirez, who, on the other hand, has been in a lot of headlines recently for refusing to waive his no trade protection.  By all accounts, Ramirez would be available, except his reluctance to uproot his family in the middle of the season is preventing a deal from being put together.

The trade that has to be made

People with an understanding of the situation say Ramirez’s family will return to their home in the Dominican Republic some time in August, so it may be that the Cubs have no choice but to try and make a trade after the July 31st deadline, which is totally possible, if slightly more complicated.  Waiting, or being forced to wait until then wouldn’t be ideal though, since rental players like Ramirez are less valuable the later they’re finally dealt, but even if it takes until August, the Cubs must do everything in their power to convince him to approve a trade.  Aramis is one of the very few marketable players on this team’s roster, and given his insistence that any acquiring team subsequently void his 2012 option, there’s no longer that enormous obstacle to surpass.  Also, there are a number of reasons why it’s probably just best that the Cubs make different plans at third base going forward.

Aramis just turned 33 years old in June, so he isn’t exactly ancient in baseball terms, but he’s obviously not on the upswing of his career, and given the rebuilding effort this team is overdue for, it makes sense that it should capitalize on the opportunity to swap Ramirez for a player or two who might provide value for years to come.  And all things considered, Ramirez isn’t really a great deal at $16MM, which is what his club option for 2012 would pay him.  Of course, if the Cubs were inclined to keep Aramis, they could just pay the $2MM to void the option for 2012, and then try and resign him at different terms. That probably wouldn’t be the ideal scenario either though, since Ramirez might still command a sizable contract on the open market, and the reality is, it may be possible to get similar production out of third base without committing significant years or dollars to another 30-something year old.  Ramirez can obviously still hit, but at this point he’s simply more valuable to a contender than he is a team without a clear shot at reaching the playoffs in the near future.

Above all else though, it would just be a disaster if the front office couldn’t capitalize on an opportunity to bring a legitimately good prospect into the fold.  The reason I drew the comparison between Ramirez and Carlos Beltran was to try and get an idea of what the Cubs might be able to get for their third baseman.  See, the Mets were actually in a pretty similar situation to the Cubs before sending Beltran to San Francisco; at 34 years old, he just wasn’t a part of their long term plans, so Sandy Alderson did the sensible thing and got the best prospect he could for a player he didn’t need or want anymore.  Beltran is and always has been a better player than Aramis, which is one reason why the Giants were willing to part with one of the game’s best pitching prospects in Zack Wheeler, but Ramirez’s numbers aren’t a far cry from Beltran’s, and especially considering what a down year it’s been for third baseman across baseball, there’s plenty of reason to believe Ramirez could also fetch a quality prospect.

Given what a disaster this year has been for this team– and that’s about the only word I think you can use to describe the the Cubs’ 2011– they just can’t afford to screw things up with Ramirez.  They’re obviously in a bit of a tough spot, given how reluctant he sounds to OK a deal, but the Cubs have every incentive imaginable to make him waive it, and waive it as soon as possible.  Unless he just goes nuts in the next week or so, his trade value is about as high as it’s going to be, so the sooner they make a deal, the better. Furthermore, Jim Hendry really ought to convince ownership that eating the majority, if not the entirety of Aramis’ remaining salary will be worth getting a better prospect in exchange.  The good thing is there isn’t really any evidence ownership would be resistant to that idea, considering Hendry had the green light to eat most of Kosuke Fukudome‘s salary in the trade with Cleveland.

Unlike that trade though, the Cubs won’t have to settle for the likes of Abner Abreu and and Carlton Smith if they get to move Ramirez.  They won’t get a prospect quite as good as Zack Wheeler, but there’s every reason to believe they could add a player with a chance to be a major contributor on the next playoff caliber Cubs team.  Supposedly the Angels are more interested in Ramirez than anyone else, and if they’re willing to part with one of their better pitching prospects, say, perhaps, Garrett Richards, then the hope has to be that a deal can be reached.  Any prospect of similar value would be a suitable return, and missing out on the chance to make that sort of deal would be nothing less than a complete waste.  Aramis is one of the best hitters to every play for this franchise, so his departure would definitely be bittersweet on some level.  But failing to flip him for something valuable would be just bitter, and 2011 has already been enough of that so far.