The Detroit Tigers have been pretty quiet so far this offseason. Now that Thanksgiving has passed and the Winter Meetings await next week, activity might be picking up a bit.
SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported via Twitter Sunday night that the Tigers “have inquired” on free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez. MLB.com’s Jason Beck confirmed that report, but also noted that no negotiations have taken place between the Tigers and Ramirez.
Ramirez, 33, has been with the Chicago Cubs for the past eight-and-a-half seasons, after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003. He opted out of a mutual option with the Cubs after this season. Considering that option was for $16 million, Ramirez is obviously looking for a big payday on the open market.
This past season with the Cubs, Ramirez hit .306/.361/.510 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs. Those numbers are certainly a huge upgrade from the .617 OPS, nine homers and 54 RBIs that the Tigers got from their third basemen in 2011. That kind of production would probably continue next season if Detroit goes with a platoon of Brandon Inge and Don Kelly.
Ramirez doesn’t bring a great glove with him, however. Though he committed just 14 errors at third base this year, Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) doesn’t view him very favorably, ranking him as one of the worst defenders at that position in baseball.
The Tigers have made the decision to take stronger offense over better defense at several positions over the past couple of seasons, so bringing on Ramirez would fall in line with that philosophy.
However, it should be pointed out that Detroit’s defense did not suffer with presumably weaker defenders like Jhonny Peralta at shortstop and Alex Avila at catcher. Both players improved considerably on defense. But hoping for the same from Ramirez might be asking too much.
After the regular season, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch mentioned that he’d like to add another big bat to his team’s lineup. Ramirez would certainly bring that. With one more 25-homer, 100-RBI bat in the middle of the order, Detroit would have a deeper lineup comparable to the likes of the Texas Rangers.
Ramirez wouldn’t add any speed to the lineup and isn’t the contact hitter that the top of the order needs. But the Tigers could find those traits in other players they might pursue. And if Ramirez were to hit third, for example, he gets on base enough to give Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Peralta and Brennan Boesch someone to drive in.
Ramirez is a very intriguing possibility for the Tigers, one the team reportedly tried to acquire at the trade deadline this past season. And he wouldn’t be a $20 million per year player, a figure GM Dave Dombrowski (and Ilitch) prefer not to add to the payroll. But how much of a multi-year commitment would the Tigers be willing to give to a 33-year-old player who is approaching the downside of his career?