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3rd Basemen Interview

The Phils lost a tough one last night 11-6.  Jon Lieber, who was 11-1 in September coming into the night, was rocked for five runs in two and a third innings.  To their credit, the Phils mounted a valiant comeback in the fourth inning, complete with a grand slam by pinch-hitter Jose Hernandez; but that was the only inning they could muster any productive offensive and the Cubs lead was too great.  Much of the damage came at the hands of Aramis Ramirez who went 4-5 with seven RBIs and two home runs.  Whether he realized it or not, he likely made quite an impression on a team in need of a third baseman with hitting capabilities.

Ramirez has three years remaining on his current contract, but has a clause which would allow him to void the remainder this year and test the free agent market.  This should be very intriguing to Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro, Jr and I suggest they not let Ramirez leave town with a quick conversation with him or his agent Paul Kinzer.  The Phils are in desperate need of both a right-handed hitter with pop and an everyday third baseman – Ramirez is both.  On the season he is batting .293/.354/.558 with 35 HR and 110 RBI and just 59 strikeouts.  These numbers sound a bit like what we all hoped Pat Burrell would produce this season.  Defensively, his .943 career fielding percentage is lower than Nunez’s mark of .965 but Ramirez’s numbers at the plate would more than make up for adequate fielding.

With the money saved on the departures of Bell and Abreu, and the either the release or significant reduction of salaries of Lieberthal, and Wolf, picking up Ramirez would certainly be viable next season.  Ramirez is scheduled to make $11 million in 2007, $11.5 million in 2008, and has a $11 million mutual option for 2009 (which could be guaranteed with 270 games played in 2007-2008).  The Phillies would obviously at least have to match this deal to lure Aramis away from Chicago; however, with the Cubs in last place and their best pitchers perennially injured, there may be an incentive there for him to play for a playoff contender (yes, the Phillies have officially been designated such status).  Of course, this is all just speculation on my part.  Ramirez simply represents a piece the Phillies need.  There would be no doubt much competition for the slugging third baseman, but the Phils front office would irresponsible if they didn’t at least consider such a possibility.

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