Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Who's on First?

I was reading Kurt's latest post at GROTA about Derrek Lee and it brought back a conversation I had in Aisle 424 a couple of weeks ago about the Cubs' corner infielders.

It will be interesting to see how the new owners deal with Lee's impending free agency and the aging of Aramis Ramirez on the other side of the diamond.

In theory, a third baseman that one is trying to keep healthy could be moved to first base. It's been done numerous times before as athletes age, so the possibility of a transition for Ramirez could be plausible with Lee moving on and Josh Vitters hopefully able to take over at third in a couple of seasons.

The problem is that Ramirez has played exactly one game (and it may have been a partial game) at any position on the diamond in his professional life. He played shortstop for AAA Nashville in 1998 and had zero fielding chances. So, moving him won't necessarily be as successful as moving say, Ernie Banks or Pete Rose.

Also, Lee is the consummate professional. While I'm not going to blame this season on the departure of Wood and DeRosa, there has got to be some thought given to who runs the clubhouse as player leaders. Lee and Lilly are probably two of the best clubhouse guys they have left and they will be the first ones to see free agency in 2011. This is not an ideal situation for building/maintaining a clubhouse of guys who give their all for the success of the team.

If the Cubs can get Ramirez to a place where he can play some first base if Lee goes down next year, then a signing of someone like Chone Figgins (who can play second, third, and any of the outfield positions) would allow one of our big bats to go down (or get a break) without losing a ton of production and/or defense in the process.

Then, if short term stints at first give the Cubs confidence Ramirez can handle it on a regular basis, it gives them the freedom to allow Lee to go elsewhere in 2011 as Vitters would essentially replace Lee in the lineup. To me, this would be ideal, because as good as Lee has been this year, Ramirez has been better when he's been healthy. If the Cubs can keep him healthy, he could retire after his next contract with the Cubs and they could get as much value from him as possible by keeping him on the field, while going younger and cheaper by not blocking their #1 prospect at the big league level.

Of course, the Cubs have never been big on long-term strategy so I'm not actually thinking this is going to happen. I also have no idea how Ramirez would react to being asked to change sides of the diamond after an entire career on the hot corner. This is just me and my Aisle 424 family passing time as the Cubs season drags on.


Arnold said...

Oh man, I hope Lee doesn't go down next year.

SixRowBrewCo said...

When these guys get older, it's always a possibility. Hopefully, the Cubs start thinking more long term and stop being such a reactionary ballclub, both in roster management and development of their prospects.

"We have to get more left-handed!!!" was the cry of 2008. Now we're already starting to hear the "We aren't speedy enough!!!" chorus warming up.

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