Aramis Ramirez isn't Prince Fielder.
No one's saying he is.
But if you begin with the assumption that keeping Prince Fielder was always going to be a huge longshot, then Aramis Ramirez isn't bad.
The Brewers completed the rebuilding of the left side of their infield Monday, signing Ramirez to a three-year contract that will pay him about $36 mill, according to sources. With Ramirez at third and Alex Gonzalez (signed last week) at shortstop, they should be improved defensively.
And with Ramirez sliding into Fielder's spot in the middle of the batting order, they should be competitive offensively, too.
Ramirez becomes even more important to the Brewers with Ryan Braun's status in doubt. Braun faces a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test, with his appeal scheduled to go before an arbitrator sometime next month.
But Braun will be back. Fielder, barring what would now be an incredible turn of events, will not. The Brewers were faced with replacing 38 home runs, 120 RBI and a .981 OPS out of the cleanup spot.
Ramirez has a career .842 OPS. He has six career 100-RBI seasons, and he drove in 93 runs for a bad Cubs team last year.
He's not Prince, but he is a solid middle-of-the order bat.
With the Ramirez signing, the Brewers could be done with their major winter shopping. The plan has been to try young (and cheap) Mat Gamel at first base, and with Francisco Rodriguez accepting salary arbitration, the Brewers wouldn't have much money to spend on another first baseman, anyway.
They could still trade K-Rod to a team looking for a closer. They could consider dealing starting pitcher Randy Wolf or even Shaun Marcum if they wanted to use the money elsewhere.
But other than adding some depth, the Brewers now don't need to do anything else. Without Prince, and likely without Braun for the first 50 games, they still have a team that should compete again in the National League Central.
The Brewers won the division in 2011. The Cardinals, their closest contender, lost a manager (Tony La Russa) and a superstar (Albert Pujols). The Reds, who won in 2010, have yet to find a deal for the top starting pitcher they have long sought.
The Cubs, even if they sign Fielder, are likely a year or two away from true contention. The Pirates are improving, but not scary. The Astros are just starting on a long rebuilding process.
The Brewers may not be as good without Fielder. But with Ramirez, in this division, they could be good enough.