Around the same time the Yoenis Cespedes saga approached its resolution, the San Diego Padres announced their one-year deal with Alexei Ramirez.
For a shortstop-starved team like the Padres, it's hard to find a single objection to the terms: $3 million in 2016, with a $4 million mutual option for 2017 or a $1 million buyout. San Diego GM A.J. Preller summed up the case for Ramirez pretty well:
"We’re getting a guy who loves to play," said Padres General Manager A.J. Preller, who cited Ramirez’s durability (Ramirez has played in at least 154 games each of the last six years). "He’s got a track record, been an All-Star, been a Silver Slugger. ... He’s held down the shortstop position." [...]
In 2015, Ramirez endured a poor first half at the plate. He rebounded after the All-Star break, hitting .277/.325/.432 with eight home runs and seven steals.
"It was something we looked at," Preller said. "He had an Alexei Ramirez second half."
Of course, we know the case against Ramirez. Namely, it's the combination of the awful first half and the declining range that gives his second half the hint of a dead-cat bounce. But for $4 million -- or $3 million of 2016 money -- it seems like it's well worth the Padres' while to find out.
Which, of course, makes it strange that it wasn't worth the White Sox' while, since Tyler Saladino and Alexi Amarista could very well be the same person.
I don't intend to rehash that particular argument, since we've had it many, many, many times before. Plus, the only emphatic way to answer that question before the regular season is with a big-ticket acquisition that sufficiently explains who the Sox needed the extra $2.5 million for. Shortstop isn't the only position at which the Sox are shorthanded, either, so it seems like these cut corners have to add up to something we haven't yet seen.
The Sox still have time to fill in that blank, even though the free-agent outfielders seemed to be the most direct way of dynamically addressing a need. It's just odd that we really don't know that question on Jan. 25, or the start of SoxFest week.
The Sox' offseason has been strangely paced. You can probably point to the stuttering free-agent market as the chief cause, but the Sox haven't done what they can to make their priorities clear, either. They rushed to cobble together a new catching tandem that's more more expensive than Tyler Flowers, but may not be all that more effective. They acquired a third baseman before they pulled off the Todd Frazier trade, and the latter cost the Sox their backup plan in the outfield. To cap it off, while the sluggish shortstop market justified the surprising decision to decline Ramirez's option, the contract he received from the Padres makes the Sox' apparent faith in Saladino look more like a marriage of convenience.
At this point, the Sox could use at least one more move that pairs well with the Frazier trade as a decisive solution from outside. You know, the kind of move that could cover for one of the compromises elsewhere, be it shortstop, outfield, the back of the rotation, etc. The Brett Lawrie trade comes closest, but the Frazier trade rendered it more of a placeholder. The other moves are closer to swapping an old battery for one that's not new, but hasn't been in that particular device, so maybe it'll perform better? Hey, sometimes that kind of specious reasoning ends up working out, but it's difficult to effectively articulate in public, so I'm looking forward to see how Rick Hahn goes about doing just that later this week.