On the same day he won his second Silver Slugger, Alexei Ramirez also started the offseason in earnest by serving as the subject for the first real White Sox rumor. Via Bruce Levine:
The White Sox have heard from numerous major league clubs about the availability of shortstop Alexei Ramirez, the 33-year-old All-Star who has been high on the list of several big-market teams. The interested teams include the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers. All of these franchises are looking for a reliable shortstop to anchor their infields.
The Mets have been the most aggressive in their pursuit of a shortstop over the past 12 months. General manager Sandy Alderson has had his top scouts looking at shortstops such as Ramirez, the Cubs’ Starlin Castro and free agents Asdrubal Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez extensively this past season. The Mets also have exactly what the White Sox are looking for if they agree to move Ramirez.
An Alexei Ramirez trade is a lot of fun to consider -- at least if it comes from the right place. There's no taking Ramirez for granted here. He's one of three players to appear in at least 156 games in each of the last five years (Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez are the other two), and while his performance isn't as consistent as his endurance, his defense and offense seem to find ways to balance each other out.
Offense tails off? Here's a great defensive year.
Power disappears? Here's 30 steals out of nowhere.
Range diminishing? He's back to 15 homers and a personal best in extra-base hits.
We know from his evasive maneuvers that he's something of a shape-shifter, but he finds ways to bring something (or some things) to the table every year. Sometimes he brings chips and dip when you were counting on him for the beer, but he's never empty-handed.
Teams would kill for that kind of reliability at an up-the-middle position, especially for a contract that really carries no risk. He's due $10 million in 2015, with a $10 million club option ($1 million buyout) for 2016. Pretty much every team in baseball would sign him for that deal if he were on the open market.
- Ramirez has had more 150-game seasons over the last five years than the top four free-agent shortstops combined (four).
- That number drops to one if you only count games at shortstop (Asdrubal Cabrera played 151 games at short in 2011).
So it makes sense that teams would call Rick Hahn to see just how attached he is to Ramirez. And it makes sense that Hahn would have a very high price.
It says something that out of more than 40 offseason plans, only two involved a trade of Ramirez (or three, if you count the one that swapped the Dodgers' and White Sox's best 23 trade assets in a one deal). All involved teams that Levine mentioned.
- Mike Seaver and Boner: Traded Ramirez, Courtney Hawkins and Trey Michalczewski to the Mets for Jacob De Grom.
- Pete Fitz: Traded Ramirez to the Dodgers for Zach Lee and Onelki Garcia.
Both of those make a certain amount of sense. However, when you fit them into the bigger picture, they underscore the dilemma in moving Ramirez -- it makes thoughts of contending in 2015 less realistic. Which isn't to say it's a bad idea, because one can argue the merits of a lateral-ish move in 2015 to collect/align talent for a bigger push in 2016. It just doesn't fit the direction Hahn has described, is all.
If the Sox wanted to both trade Ramirez and aggressively pursue 2015 wins, then it'd probably require another move to avoid a huge drop-off at short. I don't think you could put the position in the hands of Marcus Semien and Carlos Sanchez and count on 82+ wins, which means the Sox would have to try a trade for an MLB/MLB-ready shortstop (the Diamondbacks have three of them!) or scale down a smidge in free agency (maybe Stephen Drew provides 90 percent of Ramirez's production on a similar deal?).
If I had to wager, I'd bet that the Sox hold onto Ramirez. He fills a hole for the big-market teams, but he's just as good for the White Sox's plans and payroll, so I'd assume Hahn would drive too hard a bargain. It's an idea worth batting around during the speculation season, though, because if the Sox pulled off that stunner, there'd probably be another equally newsworthy move to follow.