The Pirates have announced that they've acquired Aramis Ramirez and cash from the Brewers for minor league pitcher Yhonathan Barrios. To clear space on their 40-man roster, they've designated Steve Lombardozzi for assignment. When Ramirez joins the team, the Pirates will make another roster move, likely sending Brent Morel back to Indianapolis.
Ramirez isn't the player he once was, and he'll be gone at the end of the season, but this is really a gift from the Brewers. Ramirez is still useful -- he hasn't reached base much this year, but he has 11 homers and still plays pretty good defense. And he's especially useful to the Pirates, who had Morel and Sean Rodriguez at third.
Ramirez will immediately jump into the starting role at third base, with Jung-Ho Kang sticking at shortstop. If, in five weeks or so, Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison are healthy, Mercer could hop back into the starting shortstop role, likely with both Harrison and Kang falling back into utility positions where they'll both still play a lot. Alternately, while Ramirez has never played first base in the big leagues, he's right handed, so I see no reason he couldn't take some at-bats there down the stretch. This trade improves the Pirates' depth considerably for the short term, and it also gives them what could be a formidable bench in late September and October.
The Pirates didn't give up much here, either. In fact, from their perspective, they're giving up almost nothing. Barrios is a former big-bonus infield prospect who converted to relieving a couple years back. He has a live arm, but he's now 23 and hasn't been particularly successful -- his 2.68 ERA in the minors this season looks nice, but he's also struck out just 21 batters while walking 17 in 40.1 innings. He's also set for minor league free agency and Rule 5 eligibility after the season, and there's no way the Pirates were going to put him on their roster. Maybe the Brewers see something they can fix, and as a converted infielder, it wouldn't be that shocking if Barrios took a while to bloom. But a 23-year-old minor league reliever who isn't even dominant is probably the least you can get in a trade while still claiming you got a prospect. If I were a Brewers fan, I'd be upset about this trade. Milwaukee wasn't going anywhere this season, but there also wasn't much reason for them to dump a useful player for so little.
Ramirez is making $14 million this season. The Pirates will cover $3 million, so the Brewers will send the Pirates between $2 million and $3 million to cover what's left of that $14 million total.
Ramirez plans on retiring at the end of the year, so his return to Pittsburgh will enclose his career in a weird set of bookends -- he was, of course, a promising prospect with the Pirates in the depths of their 20-year losing streak, until they essentially gave him to a division rival in a financially driven trade that was one of the worst in franchise history. Now, after a borderline Hall of Fame career spent entirely in the NL Central, he's nearing the end, and the Bucs are finally good again. Here's hoping he can contribute -- as I think someone here pointed out a couple weeks ago, Aramis Ramirez being a big part of a Pirates World Series victory in his last season in the league would be a heck of a story.