Ramirez sees reason to celebrate

@tvbp1985 (999)
November 25, 2006 8:02pm CST
CHICAGO (AP) -- When Aramis Ramirez heard the Chicago Cubs had reached an agreement with Alfonso Soriano, he jumped for joy. He envisions more celebrations. After keeping Ramirez for $75 million over five years and adding Soriano, the Cubs are far more optimistic than they were last month, when they finished the season with the National League's worst record at 66-96. "If we get everybody healthy, it's going to be a great lineup," Ramirez said during a news conference on Tuesday. Ramirez's contract contains a full no-trade clause for the first four years and a limited one for 2011. He can opt out after the 2010 season, and the deal contains a mutual option for 2012. The contract was the richest in club history until the Cubs agreed Monday to a $136 million, eight-year contract with Soriano. Soriano -- one of five players to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in one season -- will be at the top of the order, and Ramirez and 2005 NL batting champion Derrek Lee figure to provide run production in the middle. The Cubs, without a World Series title since 1908, think they have enough power to compete in the NL Central -- although their starting rotation must be improved. Besides re-signing Ramirez and acquiring Soriano, the Cubs signed second baseman Mark DeRosa ($13 million over three years) and re-signed pitchers Kerry Wood ($1.75 million) and Wade Miller ($1.5 million), and backup catcher Henry Blanco ($5.25 million over two years). They also acquired left-handed reliever Neal Cotts in a trade with the White Sox. All those moves came after Andy MacPhail resigned as president and Lou Piniella replaced Dusty Baker as manager. "That's what happens when the GM gets aggressive, when people get aggressive, when you get tired of losing," Ramirez said. "You've got to show the fans that you want to win." Ramirez struggled early last season after Lee broke a wrist, but hit .328 after the All-Star break with 22 homers and 67 RBIs. Although he opted out of the final two years of a $42 million, four-year contract, Ramirez said he never considered leaving. Acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh midway through the 2003 season, Ramirez has hit .298 with 120 homers and 353 RBIs in three-plus seasons with the Cubs. One knock on him is a lack of hustle at times, but general manager Jim Hendry pointed out Ramirez has been bothered by groin and hamstring problems. "He did play hurt," Hendry said. "There were times that Dusty would rather live with him maybe not jumping out of the gate and running hard than pull it again. I don't think (hustle) has been a problem. I think he's excited about what's going on." Ramirez gets a $5 million signing bonus and salaries of $8 million next year, $14 million in 2008, $15.65 million in 2009 and $15.75 million in 2010. He has a 2011 player option at $14.6 million, and the Cubs have a 2012 team option at $16 million with a $2 million buyout. Ramirez has the right to void the option and forfeit the buyout. He would get a $1 million payment if traded, and the 2012 option could become guaranteed under certain conditions. Hendry suggested the Soriano deal might not have happened without re-signing Ramirez. "He mentioned to Lou and I on at least two different occasions that he thought Aramis and Lee were great players, and he felt like if he came here, the lineup was going to be terrific," Hendry said. For now, Soriano figures to be the Cubs' center fielder, but he could be moved to another outfield spot before the season opener. "I couldn't promise him what spot he'd play," Hendry said. "He wanted to stay in the outfield; that wasn't a hard promise. We wanted him to lead off. I told him that, and that made him real happy."
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