White Sox trade rumors: Reported Alexei Ramirez-Carlos Martinez proposal provides first names

USA TODAY Sports

We finally have actual players to consider, but no one strong conclusion can be drawn from supposed offer from St. Louis

The White Sox rumor mill became suddenly serious with one Mark Gonzales story, and the most interesting nugget didn't involve the Sox's most talked-about trade candidates:

The Sox are listening to proposals. They turned down a deal involving pitcher Carlos Martinez, the Cardinals third-highest rated prospect, for shortstop Alexei Ramirez, according to a scouting source.

Martinez, 21, is 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 11 starts at Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. Martinez, who possesses a fastball in the high-90s mph range, has struck out 44 hitters in 52 innings.

Martinez certainly has some industry hype behind him:

He was recently promoted to the Cardinals' bullpen, where he's had some dominating outings, and some rocky ones. He's 21, so inconsistency is allowed. His smallish stature for a right-handed pitcher (6'0", 185 lbs.) generates the standard concerns that he wouldn't be able to hold up as a starter, but aside from a brief bout with shoulder tendinitis, nothing about his history supports that notion yet.

The Cardinals' management of him is a little more curious -- he's bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation, which says a lot about their rotation depth, but it could also suggest that they're showcasing Martinez in the majors for the purposes of trading him.

There's also the caveat that this could be a bogus rumor, a strategic plant or otherwise incomplete, so it's pretty foolish to rush to any kind of agitated state.

UPDATE (10:30 a.m.): Yeeeeep.

However, Martinez is a fascinating first name to drop regardless, because it could mean nothing, or it could tell us a lot about what's about to go down.

No. 1: Rick Hahn doesn't know what he's doing.

This is the immediate reaction from the outside, because the trade offer doesn't add up on its face. They see one team with a declining shortstop whose price tag is neither attractive nor oppressive, they see another team offering a Top 40 prospect, and they wonder why Hahn didn't accept it yesterday.

This is Hahn's first trade deadline, so we have no solid history on which to base actions that are only alleged. We're still collecting information, but one standalone trade rumor with no context isn't the place to start assessing him.

At the moment, we can draw more interesting and immediate inferences, such as:

No. 2: It could be an incredible seller's market.

The Cardinals need a shortstop. You know who else needs a shortstop? The teams chasing them. The Pittsburgh Pirates are getting the league's worst second-worst production from that position, and they have the prospects and payroll room to accommodate Ramirez. The Reds aren't doing that great at shortstop, either, now that I look at it.

There are contending teams with needs, while there are stories like Jayson Stark's column from Tuesday bemoaning the lack of desirable targets. The Sox may have leverage here, and this could be what it looks like when they exercise it.

No. 3: Prospects' futures aren't what they used to be.

The Cubs supposedly got a great return for half a season of Matt Garza. The Brewers received a substantial prospect from Baltimore for half a season of Francisco Rodriguez. And I've written before about what Zack Greinke and James Shields brought back. It certainly seems like ice jam surrounding well-regarded prospects has thawed a great deal.

Maybe it's because revenues are up everywhere and teams can shoot for the postseason with confidence, or maybe it's because they can lock up the young players they want for cheaper than expected, which allows them to take risks elsewhere. But the number of prospect "hauls" acquired the last couple years suggests that teams aren't as afraid to deal unproven players, and given the unreliable success rates of prospects -- not to mention their unreliable timing in figuring it out -- contending teams might have reasons to be bolder.

No. 4: The White Sox know pitching, and aren't crazy about Martinez.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on Martinez. I'm familiar with his name and profile, but I don't have a strong reaction based on what I've learned.

The White Sox have experts on Martinez in their ranks, and they also have a track record of identifying young talent they can mold. Maybe they see Martinez and agree with the future reliever tag, or maybe they have their own concerns.

Or it's possible that they have no specific objection to Martinez, but he doesn't blow their doors down, and they'd have to be positively in love with a pitching prospect to divert their resources away from acquiring position players, which is a far greater need.

Look at it this way: If Martinez developed in a satisfactory fashion for quality pitching prospect, he'd be about as valuable as Jose Quintana is now. Quintana cost the Sox nothing to acquire. That's not to say the Sox should rely on dumpster-diving to fill out their rotation of the future, but they just might feel like they can find starters without paying prices they deem inflated by industry consensus. It'd be hard to blame them, given the more glaring organizational holes.

No. 5: The Cardinals know pitching, and aren't crazy about Martinez.

If Hahn is an idiot for rejecting the trade, isn't John Mozeliak -- a very good GM -- an idiot for even proposing it?

Maybe the Cardinals are OK with dealing Martinez for an immediate upgrade in pursuit of a ring because he's not worth losing sleep over. Maybe they think he won't hold his value, and so they shifted him to the bullpen to build up his major-league profile for a deal this season. Both are distinct possibilities. Ask the Royals about counting on one top-40 pitching prospect.

No. 6: Maybe Martinez will end up on the White Sox after all.

Gonzales says the Cardinals are one of many teams interested in Jake Peavy. And there's nothing saying a Ramirez deal can't be revisited, either (if it was actually visited in the first place). That's why I'm not wringing my hands about this one yet -- if ever.

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