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Alexei Ramirez, meet market value

The shirt is now the second-most valuable thing Alexei Ramirez has signed this winter.
The shirt is now the second-most valuable thing Alexei Ramirez has signed this winter.

If the El Nuevo Herald in Miami can be trusted, Alexei Ramirez isn't going to be The Cuban Em-Bargain for much longer.

The report says Ramirez and the White Sox have agreed to a four-year, $32.5 million extension, which will take him through the first two years of free agency, by my count. And there's a $10 million club option, as far as we know, but no announcement is imminent.

The White Sox and Ramirez had already agreed to the $2.75M option, and Doug Padilla says that salary is locked, which makes a huge difference. For instance, when Gavin Floyd signed his extension after the 2008 season, it boosted the 2009 salary he already agreed to with the White Sox.

Unlike Floyd's extension, this doesn't strike me as a yee-haw deal, but it works on paper. The best comparison in this case among shortstops in arbitration, Stephen Drew. Like Ramirez, Drew hit arbitration with three full seasons under his belt, and making the comparison even richer, Drew had a contract paying him $1.5 million in each of his pre-arb seasons.

Depending on what WAR you use, they're either exactly valuable, or Ramirez is slightly inferior. I'm inclined to agree with the latter, myself. Their cumulative totals over the last two seasons:

  • bWAR: Ramirez 4.9; Drew 4.9
  • fWAR: Ramirez 6.0; Drew 7.2

Drew made $3.4M in his first arbitration, then signed a two-year, $15.75M deal with a $10M mutual option for 2013 (and a $1.35M buyout). That option is merely for aesthetics, as well as a vehicle for a buyout, because Scott Boras is his agent, and Boras doesn't give away free agency years.

But just for this exercise, let's combine his first arb year and his option to get the same four years Ramirez agreed to. Add it up, and the total comes to $27.15 million guaranteed. The specific terms of this extension haven't been released, but assuming the final year is in the area of $9.5 million (I imagine the club option gives him a little bit of a raise), Ramirez will be in line to make about $26 million over that same period.

And that fifth-year club option looms large, too.

Ramirez was eminently projectable last season, at least with Bill James' system. According to The Bill James Handbook 2011, Ramirez's projection was his sixth-most accurate one. So it's worth noting that James has him down for .280/.325/.426 next season, and that's about where I'd put him.

There is the theory of unlocked potential, though. Ramirez's bat doesn't thaw until the 41st game of the season, so he ends up punting the first quarter before rallying over the final three. Here's what he's done over the last 120 games in his three seasons:

  • 2010: .296/.330/.463
  • 2009: .296/.355/.424
  • 2008: .303/.330/.501

There is a certain logic that says if Ramirez could just figure out how to hit in the cold, he could post an OPS in the neighborhood of .800, instead of the .740s. I'd say it's more likely that we're seeing his true talent level, especially since his 2010 season was such a compromise between the first two, suggesting that experience is evening out some of his extremities.

That's not saying he'll never hit in April. However, if he ever did, I imagine the slumps would be arranged differently to keep him at his current production. I think a lot of people might welcome that -- imagine if he hit .280/.320/.430 April through September instead of having to scramble in late May.

Still, we shouldn't eliminate the possibility of Ramirez finding a new level of offensive performance, and if the contract terms hold, the Sox seem to be in position to benefit from it. If he hikes that OPS to .800, give or take 10 points, the Sox will have indeed stolen a year. I wouldn't count on that, myself -- to pull a number out of my butt, I'd say there's a 25 percent chance of Ramirez finding that extra reserve of production.

So, I'd call this contract fair, with an overtone of fun. Ramirez is often a blast to watch, and he's not going anywhere. That's good.

I wouldn't draw too many parallels to the Mark Teahen extension, because Ramirez has proven that he can provide excellent defense at a premier position, and isn't fazed by the heat of a pennant race. Teahen ... well, I still don't know what the Sox were thinking on that one.

But hey, for every Mike MacDougal, there's a Matt Thornton, and the latter more than absorbed the damage done by the former. When you add in Thornton's options, his early extension resulted in a five-year, $8 million contract. Even Knox can't argue with that one.


New York Sweaty

Freddy Garcia accepted a minor league contract from the New York Yankees. He'll join Brian Anderson, Bartolo Colon, Andrew Sisco, Andruw Jones, Damaso Marte, Boone Logan, Nick Swisher, Neal Cotts and Gustavo Molina as White Sox cast-offs vying for a job at Legends Field in Tampa in a couple weeks.