I don't think any Cubs fan entered the year thinking 3B would be an immediate area of need or one we needed to spend a lot of time looking towards the future for, but with Aramis Ramirez sudden precipitous decline, 3B has suddenly become an area of concern.
With Aramis on the way back from rehab, perhaps this is a moot point, but a cheap option just became available that is strikingly similar to the disappointing young 3B we acquired from the Pirates some time ago. Edwin Encarnacion
Now I know we're tainted from our experiences watching Encarnacion struggle mightily in a Reds uniform and then get eaten up in the AL East, but a dig down at his components show some similarities to Aramis Ramirez when he had fallen out of favor in PIT
Ramirez's 3 seasons in PIT prior to trade:
Encarnacion's last 3 seasons:
2008 - .251/.340/.456
2009 - .225/.320/.410
2010 - .200/.298/.467
Like Aramis, Encarnacion has always shown intriguing power (career ISO .193, Aramis career ISO now .239, pre Cubs .146/.235/.153). Like Aramis, Edwin has struggled mightily defensively. Like Aramis, Edwin has shown similar command of the strike zone (taking more BB's, but striking out more as well). Career BB Rate is 9.3%, Aramis = 7.3%. Career K Rate is 20.5%, Aramis is 15.5%.
Like Aramis, Encarnacion's been criticized for "not getting it" and struggling to show the intensity on the field that most scouts want. He's been considered to be an underachiever for his skill set and someone who has shown inconsistency in their approach and their results. These were all the same criticisms of Ramirez when we traded for him at age 26.
Encarnacion, at age 27, is now readily available after the Jays designated him for assignment. While its unlikely his career follows the exact path that Ramirez's did (his chances of becoming a cornerstone are slim), he's got the talent and skills to do it. If we're pointing an eye towards the future it would make sense to take a chance on a player with a higher upside (albeit lower floor) to see if they can turn their career around in a different environment.
I'd consider putting a claim in on Encarnacion and being content trying to trade/release one of Theriot/Fontenot/Baker who while they may be better players than Encarnacion right now, don't have the upside that he has.
Obviously if we're still contending this isn't a move you make, but for a team that may have its eye towards the future and needs to take some high reward, low risk gambles to get there, Encarnacion looks awfully familiar to a gamble that worked out 7 years ago