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White Sox buck tradition by declining Alexei Ramirez's option

Decision to expose shortstop to free agency opens up payroll possibilities, or Pandora's box

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We're so used to seeing the White Sox wring all the baseball out of their long-time Sox until little more than a husk remains. Paul Konerko. Dayan Viciedo. Gordon Beckham. John Danks, for an active case. Even other guys who were DFA'd before the ends of seasons, like Jeff Keppinger, Conor Gillaspie and Emilio Bonifacio, haven't had anything to offer the next team.

I expected the Sox to continue this trend and exercise Alexei Ramirez's option for 2016, but not just as a nod to tradition. Sure, I had the Sox continuing to kill their bison with the intent of using every part of it, but there were legitimate baseball reasons like Ramirez's decent second half (.277/.325/.432 over 70 games), and one year being a convenient amount of time to gauge Tim Anderson's readiness.

The White Sox didn't. And while I held off on eulogizing their shortstop of the last seven years, thinking the Sox might have a reworked deal in mind, they might let that opportunity pass as well. The vague timetable offered by Kenny Williams suggests Ramirez will get a chance to get his best offers.

"We’ve only had preliminary discussions about direction this offseason," said executive vice president Kenny Williams. "Rick (Hahn) has to survey the landscape at the GM meetings and I’m sure once he’s comfortable will present Jerry (Reinsdorf) and I with his ideas. It’s not for me to comment on Alexei one way or another right now other than to sing his praises for what he’s done in a Sox uniform from the first day he put the hat on."

The change in direction here is what changes in direction often are -- two parts refreshing, three parts terrifying. Tyler Saladino is only an answer to a question we didn't expect to ask, and our review of alternative shortstop solutions in our offseason plan roundup harvested few secure options (trading for a defense-first shortstop might be the best use of resources).

Yet it could be refreshing -- literally and figuratively -- if this is a harbinger for other moves. It makes more sense to risk letting go of Ramirez a year earlier than expected if they do the same thing with other problematic positions, like right field or DH. For the time being, the White Sox have $9 million more to spend than most thought they would. That might be only a small percentage of an overall payroll, but it can be a sizable chunk of a big-time salary. The Sox typically stay away from such deals, but perhaps one unconventional move begets another.

It's going to be weird if Ramirez doesn't return, since the White Sox are the only organization he's never known. But it's already weird to see the Sox take a pessimistic view of their player. They traditionally attempt to paint a better picture than those from projections, but this one aligns with Dave Cameron's weltanschauung:

If the prospect of Ramirez starting another season at shortstop was only seen as a half measure, then it makes sense to try to pay half the price for a different one in order to facilitate a shot to pay for bigger returns elsewhere. The game is afoot. At least until it isn't.