Cubs give injured and slumping Aramis Ramirez some time off

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Aramis Ramirez’s walk-off homer last Monday provided some reason for optimism in the midst of a season-long slump, but he’s 0-for-13 with seven strikeouts since then and is now dealing with a thumb injury.
X-rays and an MRI exam both came back negative, but Ramirez was out of the lineup yesterday and is expected to miss several more games with what is being called a bone bruise between his left thumb and index finger.
Lou Piniella told the Chicago Tribune that a trip to the disabled list has “never been brought up,” but added that Ramirez “is going to get himself a little time off” because “he’s struggled at home plate” and “sometimes time heals wounds … you work and you work and sometimes it’s better to get away from it totally and just relax.”
In other words, it sounds like the stint on the bench is partly due to the injury and partly due to his .160 batting average. Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot will split time at third base until Ramirez returns, with Baker starting against lefties and Fontenot facing righties.

The Orioles seem pretty serious about moving Manny Machado

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there has been no suggestion that the O’s and their young star have worked on a contract extension, strongly suggesting that Machado will test the open market next offseason.

While the Orioles have not said much about keeping him or trading him, yesterday considerable chatter filtered out here at the Winter Meetings suggests that they are serious about trading him now in order to get more than a draft pick in return when he eventually leaves Baltimore.

Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the Cardinals were a possible landing spot, and others have speculated that, at the moment, they’re the frontrunners for his services. Buster Olney, in a development that would make people go insane, I suspect, that the Yankees have expressed interest. It seems highly unlikely, though, that the Orioles would trade Machado within the division. Even if they did, they’d likely expect a premium from the Yankees that they would be unwilling to pay, especially given that they could easily wait Machado out until he was a free agent next year and give up nothing but cash for him. A couple of days ago we noted that the Phillies had expressed interest and the Orioles were doing their due diligence with respect to their farm system.

As far as the possible parameters of a deal, Ken Rosenthal reported that the O’s hope to acquire at least two controllable young starters in return. That’s a high price for a one-year Machado rental, but it makes sense for the Orioles to ask it. For Machado’s part, he reportedly wants to return to his original position, shortstop. He does not have no-trade protection, of course, so that may be a wish that is not fulfilled.

Machado had a down 2017, hitting .259/.310/.471, but still hit 33 homers and drove in 95 runs. In the two years prior, however, he posted OPSs of .876 and .861, and he’s still just 25. All of which is to say that the price for a team to acquire him will be high, even if he’s entering his walk year.