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Alexei Ramirez at center of White Sox' uncertain offseason outlook

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Future of shortstop questioned for the first time in seven years, which is the same length as team's postseason drought

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Alexei Ramirez had a rare day off on Wednesday night with Tyler Saladino manning shortstop in his stead. The reporters who made the trip to Minnesota all connected some dots:

(The Sun-Times is letting the Associated Press handle coverage from Minnesota during the first days of September, which reflects the states of both the paper and team.)

I've said before that it'll take the whole season to get a handle of Ramirez's future given his extreme in-season variation, but his second-half resurgence has plateaued at the moment, which he should avoid. He's hitting .277/.316/.446 during the second half, but he has just one extra-base hit and zero stolen bases over his last 15 games. His season line can't really afford production brownouts at any point through the rest of the season, because he's still not out of the hole he dug for himself during the first half.

He's one of a number of White Sox who is subjected to an extreme discrepancy between WAR valuations...

... but whether you take the better measure or split the difference, it's disheartening, because Saladino has him beat by either measure in a fraction of the games. He's riding a small sample size of an excellent defensive showing at third, but nevertheless, the gap is close enough that Saladino is floated as a potential replacement when there's not yet any real reason to think he can start anywhere over the course of a full season.

In a season that's a step backward in so many respects, Ramirez's sudden fungibility (whether real or perceived) might be the most saddening, because:

That was from a couple weeks ago, but that thought sunk in with me. The White Sox didn't make the playoffs during any of the subsequent years where Ramirez was one of the best bargains in the league. Of course, they came the closest during Ramirez's previous worst season. It's kinda like they've adhered to a "two for me, one for you" policy of failing each other, although Ramirez has received an undue portion of the blame over that time.

Over at The Catbird Seat, James is skeptical that the White Sox can divorce themselves from their longtime shortstop so easily:

I get regular mentions from readers suggesting Saladino as a money-saving replacement over Alexe Ramirez, and I still don't see it happening at this point. The Sox are too notoriously loyal to unseat Ramirez without a significant upgrade, and between the uncertainty that Saladino can be much beyond passable at short with a bat that is simply no more terrible than Ramirez's worst, "They're both garbage, so whatevs!" is not a strong argument to bail low on a 2014 All-Star.

But while the Jerry Reinsdorf Sox are "notoriously loyal," the Reinsdorf Sox have never lost 86 games or more in three straight seasons. This year's team is now on pace to complete the trifecta, and it'd just so happen to line up with Hahn's first three seasons as GM.

That's a good reason as any for Hahn to proclaim that there are "no sacred cows," and Ramirez, who will play his 1,200th game whenever he returns to the lineup, would be that exact kind of institution worth scrutinizing with fresh eyes. But if the Sox were to look elsewhere for a shortstop, it'd have to be from outside the organization -- Ian Desmond? -- for it to register as a change worth making, which is a refrain that also applies to a number of other team personnel.