Friday, November 30, 2007

By Chuck Richter - Senior Editor

In my previous article I mentioned how Angels owner Arte Moreno, GM Tony Reagins, Manager Mike Scioscia and Preston Gomez are in the Dominican Republic right now. The reason could be to just visit their Dominican Baseball Academy or possibly take a detour south to Venezuela to meet with Miguel Cabrera or Johan Santana in hopes of working out a contract extension before a possible deal is agreed upon, but it could also be to meet with Cuban defector Alexei Ramirez.

Ramirez, who played in Cuba for Pinar del Rio, is married to a Dominican citizen. Once he establishes residency in the Dominican and goes through the U.S. government’s “unblocking” process–a procedure aimed at preventing Cubans from funneling money back to the Castro government–he will become a free agent.

Alexei Ramirez led Cuba’s Serie Nacional in home runs last season with 20 and was a member of Cuba’s top-level national team for the last three seasons, winning an Olympic gold medal in 2004 in Athens and playing for Cuba’s World Baseball Classic team, which placed second to Japan. His birthdate has been listed as being either April 25 or Sept. 22, 1981, depending on different international tournament records.

Although the Angels say they like slick fielding Erick Aybar or Maicer Izturis for the vacant SS position, adding a shortstop with some pop who would be a lot less expensive than trading for Miguel Tejada along with taking on his contract and possibly dealing with the alleged reports linked to the Mitchell report, might be more prudent.

Ramirez, who went 6-for-16 (.375) in the WBC, has played shortstop for Pinar Del Rio but has also played the outfield and second base for Cuba in international competition. He hit .335 with a .574 slugging percentage this season for Pinar del Rio, the same team of ex-defector Jose Contreras.

At any rate, GM Tony Reagins has pulled off two surprise attacks thus far, why not one more for the trifecta? This signing wouldn't hinder any talks moving forward with Miguel Cabrera either and would reunite ex Cuban teammates in the World Cup in Kendry Morales, who I'm sure the Angels would use in negotiation talks should Ramirez be on their radar.

Funny, he's got a little of Orlando Cabrera in him, watch and see for yourself as he rounds the bases after a game winning dinger!

Love to hear what you think!

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