Are Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena Here For The Long-Stay?


If you were to poll general managers around the league, they would all say that third baseman Aramis Ramirez and first baseman Carlos Pena are among the top power hitters on the trade market. Teams like the Yankees, Angels, Pirates, and Indians have been rumored destinations for both Pena and Ramirez. Considering both have expiring contracts after the season, they meet the criteria of players general manager Jim Hendry is willing to trade. Though, it would seem that both Ramirez and Pena may have hit their way onto the Cubs’ roster in 2012.

Patrick Mooney of Comcast Sportsnet reports that neither Ramirez or Pena will be traded before the July 31 trade deadline, and both may be in line for contract extensions with the Cubs. The bulk of the report seems to be mostly speculation, as Mooney opines that both Pena and Ramirez may be hard to replace considering the lack of depth in the Cubs’ farm system at the corner infield positions and the poor free agent class for both the first base and third base market. After Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols there is a considerable drop-off for the first base market. That drop-off will put Pena in a good position, who’s 20 home runs is tied for seventh most in the major leagues this season.

There are a couple of inaccuracies that I found in Mooney’s speculation that Ramirez and Pena will not be traded. The first would be the lack of the corner infield depth in the Cubs’ farm system. Josh Vitters‘ slow development has taken him off the radar of some baseball reporters, but he still is the same player that was drafted third overall in the 2007 amateur draft. Vitters has shown vast improvements this season with the Tennessee Smokies and may be in Iowa before the season is over. Vitters is currently hitting .273/.310/.431/.741 to go along with 9 home runs with the Smokies this season. More importantly, his K% has improved greatly as he is striking out 10% of the time this season, opposed to 18% in 2o10. The current expectation is that Vitters will not be ready by Opening Day 2012, but, he is likely to be ready at some point during the 2012 season. But that does not mean that the Cubs should bring back Ramirez. Ryan Flaherty, who was recently promoted to Triple A-Iowa, would be a more than serviceable option at third base. Flaherty could platoon with either Blake DeWitt or Jeff Baker to start the season until Vitters is ready.

The other issue with Mooney’s report is that he suggests that return in a potential trade involving Ramirez or Pena is unknown. Considering how productive they have been in recent months, it is safe to say that both Ramirez and Pena would net the Cubs a good package of prospects that are on the cusp of being major league ready. The Cubs would not consider trading either one if they felt the package failed to meet their satisfactory level. Trading Pena and/or Ramirez is by no means a fire sale, or backing up the truck. If the Cubs are able to land good-young talent for either one of their corner infielders, then that is a trade that Hendry has to make.

That does not mean that I don’t think signing Pena to an extension is bad idea, in fact, it is a pretty good idea. While the Cubs may be the rumored landing spot for Prince Fielder, I’m beginning to think that there will be no major signing this winter by the Cubs’ front office. It falls under the cliche saying of “don’t fix what is not broken.” Pena is going to hit 30+ home runs this season and is capable of playing gold glove defense at first base. That is something I would not mind seeing for the next two seasons.

Aramis Ramirez is a much different story. The Cubs should not be baited into making the mistake of signing Ramirez to a multi-year extension. It is great that he started to produce runs when the Cubs are out of contention, but, how many home runs did he have in April and May? Ramirez has proven during his time with the Cubs that he more often than not is more productive when the Cubs are already out of contention instead of when the games matter. Granted, Ramirez has been on some bad Cubs teams. Regardless, Ramirez as a whole is not a fit for what the Cubs should look to do in 2012 and beyond.