Before He Turns Into A Pumpkin, Part II: A Buyer Over the Lake?

The Brewers still need to deal Aramis Ramirez before the July 31st non-waiver deadline. However, this past weekend, the chances of that happening seemingly took a significant blow.

Heard #Mets left series in Milw unimpressed by Aramis Ramirez on both sides of ball. And weren’t that interested to start with #Brewers

— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) June 30, 2015

The Mets have always appeared to be the natural fit for Ramirez this summer. Third base for New York’s National League outfit has been one of the most stable landscapes in all of baseball this century, thanks to David Wright, but his ailing back has caused the Amazins’ to turn to a depressing committee of Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada, and the currently-injured Daniel Murphy at the hot corner. Still, they continue to downplay their interest in Ramirez at every turn. It now seems that this was not just gamesmanship to lower the asking price.

Unexpectedly, and for the first time since the Willie Randolph days, the Mets are contenders this year. Third base, though, has been a major weak spot in the lineup. Campbell has been a Mets farmhand since 2008 and only this year did he find himself into the BP Annual – he’s that kind of non-prospect. As such, he was never supposed to even be in the conversation at third base. It’s not difficult to see why;  he’s been downright terrible. In just north of 150 plate appearances, he’s slashing .171/.283/.264. Only eight of those 152 plate appearances have resulted in an extra-base hit. Campbell’s hit chart to date is every bit as hope-inspiring as a funeral dirge:

“Campbell and Co.” would make a decent name for an indie rock band, but as a third baseman, he must do far better than this. Of course, Aramis Ramirez no longer represents first-division talent at this stage in his career. But it’s hard to imagine him performing worse than that. Alas, the Mets want nothing to do with him — even if the fans might disagree.

@Joelsherman1 I’m not impressed with Eric Campbell.

— Mike (@mike5_5_5) June 30, 2015

Despite this, with less than a month until the trade deadline, hope is not lost on the Aramis front. Though there has been no reported contact between the teams, a perfect buyer exists for Ramirez’s services — just across Lake Michigan, too, in the Brewers’ old home, the AL Central.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Detroit Tigers sit two-games back of the American League Wild Card. Additionally, no other organization in baseball is more fixed in “Win Right Now, Baby” mode. Miguel Cabrera may still the most feared bat in baseball, but he’s 32 years old. History indicates that his time sitting upon the throne is short at that age. Hell, Justin Verlander is the same age and already repaying whatever deal he made with the devil from 2009-2012 with handsome interest. Ian Kinsler is a year older than both of them. Both Victor Martinez and Alfredo Simon are older than the whole bunch.

In the coming few years, when that aging core starts to slip in its performance, nobody will be there to pick up the slack. The Motor City Kitties’ farm system is rated by Baseball Prospectus as the worst in baseball. Thirtieth out of thirty. The 2014 draft saw them draft high-school outfielder Derek Hill in the first round. Though Hill is a total wild card at this point, years away from paying any potential dividends at the big-league level, his upside was lofty enough to get him named the Tigers’ top prospect for 2015. Nobody on the Tigers’ farm with major-league talent is major-league ready, and vice versa. It’s a familiar problem for Brewers fans.

The big difference is, for the Tigers, there’s hope in the present. And depending on your opinion of the Anthony Gose/Rajai Davis platoon in center field, the only two positions that have not been offensively fertile this season are catcher and third base.

The Tigers would really love to solve their woes behind the dish by adding Jonathan Lucroy to the mix. I’d also really love a Model S. The reality of both those dream-situations is that the Tigers lack the young resources to present a fair offer for Lucroy. I should also point out that my credit rating would get me unceremoniously booted from the Tesla store without so much as a test drive. It’s probably best to leave both of those ideas in the realm of the hypothetical, where they belong.

But third base, on the other hand, seems a natural fit for the two teams. Ramirez will come cheap enough for the asset-strapped Tigers, in terms of prospects, and he could pay off even if he falls flat on the field.

Incumbent at third base for the Tigers is 23-year-old Nick Castellanos. Just two years ago Castellanos was a top prospect, the lone jewel saving Detroit from their current 30th-place farm purgatory. Since then, things haven’t gone according to plan. The Tigers may have rushed Castellanos to the big leagues, and in 871 major-league plate appearances, he has a paltry on-base percentage of .295 — and to go with only 15 home runs. The whole package has been less than a win below replacement level.

Castellanos’ struggles have led the Tigers to give part-time reps to utility infielder Andrew Romine at the hot corner in an effort to motivate him into delivering on his potential. So far, that hasn’t done anything to shake things up. Replacing Romine with Ramirez, though, could conceivably be an upgrade for the Tigers. Castellanos came up to the big leagues at 21 years old and has looked overmatched. His poor baserunning, lackluster contact, and inability to recognize pitches are all issues that need to be straightened out, rather than swept under the rug. The team would be wise to rewind his development a touch and ease him back into the starting job through Ramirez, possibly even after some time in Triple-A to remember how to mash again. That’s a luxury trading for Aramis would afford them. In the middle of a playoff race, a team can’t exactly entrust third base to Romine and expect the fans to not mutiny. Ramirez wouldn’t carry the same problems.

It’s not an exciting deal for either team. For the Tigers, they would be getting less than half-season of a broken-down shell of a once-great player. For the Brewers, they would be cutting bait with the guy who was supposed to replace Prince Fielder’s production when he left — for Detroit, ironically — via free agency and likely getting peanuts in return. But it’s a practical move for all parties involved. The Tigers could address their broken third baseman of the future, the Brewers could exchange their expiring pumpkin for something small but potentially useful, and Aramis Ramirez could round out his career trying to chase down the Royals in the American League Central.

Not every fairy tale has a happy ending. Sometimes, a resolution where all parties are generally satisfied is the best for which one can hope.

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