The Rundown: Aramis Ramirez Back to Pittsburgh, Ian Happ Promoted, Hug Watch in Overdrive

With the Cubs off last night, there was plenty of time to channel all of our baseball anxiety into the trade rumors that continue to fly around like Donald Trumps hair in a hurricane. Some of those rumors even became reality, as we saw with two players linked to the Cubs in different ways.

Scott Kazmir (long thought to be a Cubs target) was moved to the surprisingly competitive Houston Astros for couple of prospects and former Cub Aramis Ramirez was traded from Milwaukee back to Pittsburgh, the city in which his big league career began. It was really cool to see the general warm fuzzies from people about the latter move, though I could have done without seeing “full circle” so often.

It’s true though, as Ramirez has come back around to the beginning of journey that has long gone under-appreciated. Cubs fans can be notoriously hard on guys who don’t meet their unrealistic expectations, and few were bigger victims of this flawed mentality than Ramirez. Of course, he did only average 28 homers and 95 RBI over his 8+ years in Chicago.

I could be mistaken here too, but I seem to remember him taking less money to re-sign with the Cubs several years ago than what he would have received on the open market. Listen, I’m not trying to lift up as a martyr a guy who raked in nearly $100 million, but it’s all relative when you’re talking about a player’s value.

Ram-Ram — not sure how many people did or do call him that beyond just me — was one of my favorite players and was one of the anchors of the playoff teams from 2003, ’07, and ’08. And it’s fitting that he was traded back to the Pirates 12 years to the day that the Bucs shipped Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to Chicago to fuel the Cubs’ postseason run.

Perhaps more so than any other deal I can recall, that trade made me feel that the Cubs were legit, that they now had everything they needed to finally break through. And they almost did. But in absolutely fleecing the Pirates by getting Ramirez and Lofton for a package of Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback, and Bobby Hill, GM Jim Hendry had laid a foundation for the best run the Cubs have seen in the last 70 years.

I think history will look far more kindly on Aramis Ramirez than did many Cubs fans in the wake of his departure for division rival Milwaukee. He won’t be a Hall of Famer, but I’ll take a guy who hits .284/.342/.494 with 21 homers and 77 RBI on my team any day.

Happ promoted

If you’d been planning a trip to Eugene, OR to witness the burgeoning greatness of Cubs’ top draft pick Ian Happ, you may need to see about getting a refund. He was recently promoted to low-A South Bend, which will probably not be his home for very long if he follows an expected career trajectory.

We’re getting a little spoiled with the success of the bats the Cubs have drafted early over the last couple of years. Kris Bryant moved quickly through the system, his ascension only slowed by inexorably sluggish pace of the arbitration clock. Then Kyle Schwarber burst onto the scene barely a year after being drafted.

Could Happ be up with the Cubs next season? It’s getting tough to elbow out all the other competitors for playing time at this point, but given the team’s desire to move this kid around the field it’s entirely possible that he could progress quickly to the Bigs. But it’s a long journey from South Bend to Chicago, so let’s see how things play out.

Premature speculation

During trade season, fans everywhere are on high alert to find out what players are being moved where. In a phenomenon known as “Hug Watch,” viewers look to see whether players dole out goodbyes to teammates if and when they’re pulled from games.

When word came down that the Brewers’ Gerardo Parra was being pulled from Thursday’s contests, the speculation was thick…for all of about 30 seconds. The collective disappointment was kind of funny to see, especially since the Brewers had already made one significant move and because Parra is a possible Cubs target.

This stuff is only going to get worse — or is it better? — as the deadline approaches. Watching for trades is, after all, often more fun than watching the games.


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