Let’s start by being honest: the 2010 Chicago Cubs are awful.

The bullpen is thin, the bench is soft, and the bats are taking turns being stone cold. It’s bad enough that your Opening Day starter is being paid almost $18 million to throw two or three innings a week in the bullpen in early May, and Carlos Zambrano isn’t even doing that very well.

The national media is now picking fights for the Cubs to deal with internally. Fox’s Ken Rosenthal decided that Cubs GM Jim Hendry should fire Lou Piniella, and the Cubs have spent a long weekend telling people “everything’s going to be ok.”

Meanwhile, they’re dropping five of six to the Pittsburgh Pirates and are staring up at four teams in the Central Division.

It’s time to blow this thing up, people. Why prolong the pain of this ridiculously underwhelming roster when Hendry could, for once, be proactive in building a winning team?

Now for the million dollar question: if the Cubs are going to tear this thing down, who is, and more importantly, isn’t available?

The only thing Cubs fans have had to be excited about has been the promotion of 20-year-old super prospect Starlin Castro. And, other than a couple errors in his first home game, the kid’s been everything he was sold as being; he’s hit the ball to all fields, has shown better range than Ryan Theriot at short, and stole his first base of the season on Monday night.

Castro should be the future for the Cubs.


And this is a big, Beyonce-sized but folks. There’s a huge “what if” on the horizon that must be discussed if you’re the Cubs, and now is the time to do it.

In Miami, all hell is breaking loose in the Marlins’ clubhouse. After fouling a ball off his shin last night, superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez didn’t exactly hustle after booting a ball later. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez yanked Ramirez off the field, and a war of words began.

Gonzalez said anything less than 100 percent is not acceptable, and Wes Helms said he thinks Ramirez needs to apologize to his teammates for his lack of effort on Monday night.

Ramirez’s response to his manager?

“It’s his team. He does whatever he (expletive) wants,” Ramirez said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s brutal.”

When asked about his ankle, Ramirez added, “That’s OK. [Gonzalez] doesn’t understand that. He never played in the big leagues.”

Them’s fightin’ words!

Ramirez is a 26-year-old shortstop who has already been an All-Star and won the 2009 National League batting crown. In his four-year major league career entering 2010, Ramirez hit 103 home runs, had 313 runs batted in and stole 164 bases.

The cliff notes of Ramirez’s scouting report is “second coming of A-Rod.”

Ramirez received the richest contract in the history of the Marlins organization in May of 2008, a six-year, $70 million deal (his annual salaries from 2010-2014 will be $7M, $11M, $15M, $15.5M and $16M). When his current contract expires, Ramirez will be 31.

To truly frame any consideration of the Cubs making a move for someone like Ramirez, we need to place Ramirez into some context. The Florida Marlins acquired Ramirez as the centerpiece of a trade that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. Indeed, if you examine the history of the Marlins, they have a great track record of trading players before they cost the franchise too much money and getting exceptional value in return.

Now let’s circle back to the question at-hand: if you’re Jim Hendry, and you’re trying to save your job during the 2010 season… and if you’re the Ricketts family, trying to turn 101-plus years of misery into something special… what expense is too great? And what players aren’t touchable?

Tom Ricketts has made his feelings very clear publicly that he wants to build the organization from the bottom up, using home-grown talent to supplement the stars (and concrete contracts Hendry couldn’t sell to his own parents) on the major league roster. One would have to think the poster child (and I mean “child”) for this philosophy would be Castro.

Here’s your Kardashian-sized but : but what if Starlin Castro could get Hanley Ramirez to Chicago?

The Marlins might be intrigued by some of the contracts the Cubs have on their roster, especially expiring contracts of veterans. The Cubs cherry-picked Derrek Lee away from the Marlins for Hee-Seop Choi in the winter following the epic disaster of 2003, and also acquired Juan Pierre, Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca from Florida in a series of moves that sent, among others, Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins current No. 2 starter, Ricky Nolasco, to Miami.

A history of dealing between Florida and Chicago exists in the recent past.

There’s one more point to consider when considering any move involving Castro. There’s another kid in the system named Hak-Ju Lee who also happens to play a very, very good shortstop. Some scouts have whispered that, when Lee is ready, Castro see a similar fate to Theriot and move to second base because Lee is a superior defensive shortstop.

However, Lee won’t turn 20 until November this year and is a couple years away. In those same few years, the Cubs could be turning third base over to Josh Vitters, another of their top prospects.

So the Cubs are an organization that has a future shortstop playing the position at Wrigley Field right now, but they have a player that might be better in the minors. What to do?

Consider the following offer: Castro and Aramis Ramirez to Florida for Hanley Ramirez.

There are some in baseball circles that believe Ramirez’s comparisons to Alex Rodriguez run deeper than his astounding production at a young age. Because of his size and power at the plate, many believe Ramirez will eventually make a permanent transition to third base.

So what would the progression be for the Chicago Cubs if this deal went down?

My proposal would be that Ramirez stays at shortstop and Theriot at second for the remainder of the 2010 season. This winter, however, Hanley Ramirez would replace Aramis Ramirez at third base and Theriot would move back to short for one more season, or until Hak-Ju Lee is ready. The Cubs would then move Vitters permanently to first base in Double-A; one of the biggest negatives about Vitters’s game has been his defense at third base, so moving him to first may have eventually happened anyway.

While some Cubs fans might scream that giving up on Aramis Ramirez makes no sense, there is no guarantee that he will be in Chicago next year. He has a player option for 2011 worth $14.6 million that, if Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly are gone, he wouldn’t necessarily have to exercise.

Ramirez will be 32 in late June, and the Marlins could put him at third base for the next two years at comparable cost ($30.6M) to Hanley Ramirez’s deal ($26M). Adding Aramis Ramirez in Florida would allow the Marlins to move Jorge Cantu to first base full-time, which would be an improvement for them as well.

If Aramis Ramirez doesn’t pick up his player option for 2011, then the Marlins save $26 million in the deal. What’s most important for the Marlins, though, is that replacing Hanley Ramirez with Castro at short falls in line with their historical pattern of turning a peaking young star into a younger, cheaper version of the player.

With the apparent chasm growing between Ramirez and his manager and teammates in Florida growing, the Marlins might be willing to make a deal soon. If the Cubs want to start rebuilding for the future, considering a deal that brings him to Chicago could be the right blockbuster to consider.

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