MILWAUKEE — With Prince Fielder all but gone and Ryan Braun facing a possible 50-game suspension, the Milwaukee Brewers needed another source of offense.
The Brewers finalized a $36 million, three-year contract with free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez on Wednesday, adding a much-needed bat to their lineup.
Ramirez, who played the past eight-plus seasons for the NL Central rival Chicago Cubs, said he considers the Brewers a team that will be in position contend every year for the foreseeable future — even if they do lose Braun for a chunk of next season and lose Fielder for good.
“You’re going to miss those guys if Ryan Braun is suspended, but I think you win with pitching,” Ramirez said.
And while Ramirez said he’ll do his best to help produce runs, he doesn’t see himself as a direct replacement for Fielder.
“You can’t replace Prince Fielder,” Ramirez said. “He’s one of the best hitters in the game.”
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin acknowledged that Wednesday’s signing of Ramirez more or less means that they’re moving on from Fielder, who is almost sure to sign elsewhere.
“It appears, obviously, that Prince Fielder will probably not be coming back at this time,” Melvin said. “So we had to move forward.”
Braun, the NL MVP, is appealing a positive test for a banned substance.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty, but we’re moving forward with him being a part of our ballclub,” Melvin said.
Melvin said the team wasn’t going to change its offseason plans to compensate for the potential loss of Braun.
“We’re just doing business as usual,” Melvin said.
The 33-year-old Ramirez played 149 games for the Cubs last year, batting .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs.
“He’s got some pretty impressive credentials,” Melvin said. “I know when we always played them, he’s the one guy that I always feared coming up there in key situations, with men on base.”
Ramirez has been with the Cubs since he was traded by Pittsburgh to Chicago in the middle of the 2003 season.
Ramirez isn’t quite sure what to expect now that he’s on the other side of the intense Cubs-Brewers rivalry.
“I don’t know,” Ramirez said. “I’ve got to experience it first. I know it’s going to be a little different, because I played in Chicago most of my career.”
And he’ll enjoy playing in Miller Park with the roof closed in April.
“I just don’t like the cold weather,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez gets $6 million next year, $10 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014, of which $6 million is deferred. There is a $14 million mutual option for 2015 with a $4 million buyout.
The deferred money from 2014 is due in two $3 million payments on Dec. 15 in 2017 and 2018. If the 2015 buyout money is paid, it would be owed in two $2 million payments on Dec. 15 in 2015 and 2016.
Part of the Brewers’ pitch to land Ramirez came from principal owner Mark Attanasio and manager Ron Roenicke, who met with Ramirez in California while he was there to visit with another team that was interested in signing him.
Melvin said he recently talked to former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who said Ramirez is the kind of hitter you want at the plate in pressure situations.
“Like Aramis said, you’re probably not ever going to totally replace Prince,” Melvin said. “But these are some big numbers that he’s put up.”