Cubs

How will the Cubs replace Aramis Ramirez?

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How will the Cubs replace Aramis Ramirez?

Monday, Sept. 26, 2011Posted: 11:00 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
SAN DIEGO Whether they wanted to admit it or not, the Cubs knew that this day was coming. All they had to do was look at the big board.

Aramis Ramirez hoped his strong relationship with Jim Hendry would help him get the contract extension that would keep him in Chicago. But Hendrys firing blew up almost every assumption about the way the Cubs do business.

Theres no doubt that Ramirez is a businessman, a professional who never seemed to care whether or not he was embraced by the fans, or wonder why he was heavily criticized in certain segments of the media.

You got to ask them, Ramirez said. I dont know. I just show up and play. Thats all I can do.

So once the next general manager moves into his new office at Clark and Addison, he will scan the wall listing every player in the organization and almost certainly see an opening at third base.

Ramirez wont get a statue outside Wrigley Field, but he solidified the position and anchored the heart of the lineup since the middle of the 2003 season (at least when he was healthy).

Ramirez continues to treat a quad injury, and if he doesnt play again for this team, he will leave with 238 homers and 805 RBI in a Cubs uniform.

He who will turn 34 next season and understands that he will be able to command a big multi-year deal because the free-agent market for third basemen will be filled with utility-type players; no one who can match his offensive firepower.

So the Cubs may be forced to look for internal solutions. They could mix-and-match with Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt and the next wave of prospects, which includes DJ LeMahieu, Josh Vitters and Ryan Flaherty.

I dont really put too much stock or too much worry into whats going to happen, just because its so irrelevant now, Baker said. No one knows anything, from coaches to players. Theres a lot of stuff that they have to address.

Baker believes that he can play every day and would love to prove that hes more than someone who just crushes left-handed pitching. DeWitt has proven to be a nice player off the bench, but he isnt a naturally gifted defender.

It wouldnt be surprising if the Cubs decided to focus more on run prevention. It will be difficult to replace the 25 homers and 92 RBI Ramirez accounted for at that position.

Answers could begin forming in the Arizona Fall League, where LeMahieu and Vitters will try to get a jump on 2012. LeMahieu, a second-round pick out of Louisiana State University, became the first player from Chicagos 2009 draft class to reach the majors.

LeMahieu a smooth defender who should develop a more powerful swing as he fills out his 6-foot-4-inch, 205-pound frame has impressed many in the organization with the way he carries himself.

Ive always prided myself on being confident, LeMahieu said, and mentally focused and prepared when you get called on. Ive been in big situations before, playing in the College World Series in front of big crowds. (Im) used to it (and) that helped me a lot.

The Cubs have been waiting for Vitters to show that kind of growth. In fairness, the kid hadnt even turned 18 yet when they made him the third overall pick in the 2007 draft.

Now 22, Vitters responded by hitting .283 with 14 homers and 81 RBI in 129 games at Double-A Tennessee. Its unclear how hell project as a defender. Theres talk he might play some outfield.

Vitters was roommates with top prospect Brett Jackson and the two were seemingly inseparable during spring training. Jackson, who played his college ball at Berkeley, is polished and driven and confident.

Special assistant Dave Keller, who used to be the organizations minor-league hitting coordinator, has worked extensively with both prospects. The hope is that Vitters learned something.

Every year is big year for a guy when youre a No. 1 pick, because everybody has so many high expectations, Keller said. Bretts personality can hopefully rub off on Josh a little bit to help Josh understand that urgency part of it. Because all Brett wants to do is be a great player up here.

Their time may not come next season. But Ramirez and the Cubs are prepared to move on. Everyone who wanted him gone at the trade deadline will find out its not that easy to replace him.

Reporters will miss Ramirez because he can be brutally honest. The detachment that seemed to bother fans will mean no hard feelings, no bitterness. Its just business.

Youre never going to make everybody happy, Ramirez said. Theres always going to be people that dont think youre a 1 million player. Theres always going to be people that dont think youre a 100,000 player. It doesnt matter who you are.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Marcell Ozuna signing with Braves rules out potential suitor for Kris Bryant

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USA TODAY

Marcell Ozuna signing with Braves rules out potential suitor for Kris Bryant

When former Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson signed with the Twins last week, one thought was Atlanta could pivot and try to acquire Kris Bryant to fill the void in their lineup.

That possibility looks less likely now, as the Braves announced Tuesday they’ve signed former Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million deal.

The Braves didn’t have a dire need for a third baseman — 22-year-old Austin Riley, a former top prospect, is waiting in the wings — so much as they needed a bat to replace Donaldson. Bryant would have checked both those boxes, but the path to acquiring him is more difficult.

Bryant has been fixated in trade rumors this winter, but any extensive negotiations won’t occur until his service time grievance case is resolved. NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan reported last week Bryant trade rumors this winter have been “greatly exaggerated” because the lingering grievance.

The Braves have been named a potential Bryant suitor as they hold the top prospects the Cubs would seek in return for Bryant. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman threw cold water on that notion recently.

There’s also the possibility the Cubs don’t move at all Bryant this offseason.

"No, we're not in a position where we *have* to do anything,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said Friday at Cubs Convention. “I think you want to always avoid being put in a corner where you have to make a deal and your back's against the wall and you're gonna take any deal that's out there.

“We’re not at all in that position but looking at the longer time horizon of the next two years, I think you would be wise at some point to do something that looks out a little bit more for the long-term and a little bit less for the short-term, but that doesn't have to happen now. We're not in a position where we have to move anybody."

Ozuna joining the Braves means the Cardinals lost one of their most productive bats from the 2019 division championship club. Like the Cubs, St. Louis' offseason has been marked by low-key moves, outside of the Cardinals acquiring pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore from the Rays, a deal which sent Cardinals slugger Jose Martinez to Tampa Bay.

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Cubs acquire righty reliever Travis Lakins from Red Sox as bullpen stockpiling continues

Cubs acquire righty reliever Travis Lakins from Red Sox as bullpen stockpiling continues

The Cubs continued their stockpiling of relievers on Tuesday, acquiring right-hander Travis Lakins from the Red Sox. The North Siders will send a player to be named later or cash considerations to Boston in return.

Lakins is a former sixth-round pick by the Red Sox who made his big-league debut last season. The 25-year-old sported a 3.86 ERA in 16 appearances, three of which he started the game as an "opener." He pitched 23 1/3 innings in the big leagues season, striking out 18 while walking 10. He holds a 4.45 ERA in parts of five minor-league seasons.

Lakins' fastball ranks in the 70th percentile for spin rate, averaging 93.7 mph with his four-seamer last season with Boston. 

The Cubs have acquired a plethora of low-key relievers this winter, including Dan Winkler, Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam and now Lakins. The club lost stalwart Steve Cishek to the White Sox and haven't been connected to the reliable Brandon Kintzler this offseason.  Pedro Strop is also a free agent, and the Cubs are reportedly interested in a reunion.

As of now, the only locks for the 2020 bullpen are closer Craig Kimbrel, Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan and Brad Wieck. Thus, the Cubs have been gathering as many relief options as possible with the hope some will emerge as viable relief candidates this season. At the least, they'll have plenty of depth in case any injuries occur or if any arms underperform.

"You realize to get through a season, it's not a matter of going up on a whiteboard and writing up your eight relievers," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said at Cubs Convention Saturday. "It's a matter of [needing] 15, 20, 25 good relievers over the course of the summer to really get through it.

"When you guys see a lot of these transactions of relievers, often times they're going to be coming off down years. For the most part, I bet you when we acquire a guy, you can look back and you can see a year in the not-too-distant past when they had a really good year.

"That's the kind of shot we have to take, and that's the kind of shot every team has to take on capturing that lightning in a bottle. Buying really high on relievers and signing them after they have a breakout year is really expensive and really difficult and doesn't have a great success rate. We try to find those guys that we can catch lightning in a bottle, and that's been a big part of our strategy."

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