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You cool if TA = Alexei?

The best shortstop pre-Ramírez may be Anderson’s closest comp

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox
Eight-Year Itch: Ramírez was a solid performer on both sides of the ball ... just like the fella manning short now for the Sox.

When the comp of Alexei Ramírez came up in the recent protracted discussions about the relative worth of the Chicago White Sox middle infield, I thought, damn, thunder stolen.

The two players do not overlay one another perfectly — Ramírez boasted a better balance of offensive and defensive value than the bat-first Anderson has to date in his career — but the similarities are not far off.

Let’s start with the “eye test”: physically, the players could be twins (‘kay, fraternal not identical), Anderson at six-foot-one and 185 pounds, Ramírez six-foot-two, 180.

But digging deeper into the numbers, there are parallels.

Ramírez compiled 23 bWAR (.019 WAR/G) and 17.8 fWAR (.015 WAR/G) in his eight-season, 1,226-game White Sox career. Per Baseball-Ref, Ramírez had about half as much of his value locked up in defense as offense.

Landing with the White Sox at age 26, Ramírez was the runner-up as Rookie of the Year in 2008, won Silver Sluggers in 2010 and 2014, and was a 2014 All-Star.

Ramírez was paid $37,811,666 in his White Sox career. Using fWAR, Ramírez was paid $2,124,251 per WAR, a pretty fabulous bargain overall.

Anderson came up to the White Sox almost exactly two years ago, at age 23. He’s now put in about two full seasons in Chicago, compiling 5.1 bWAR (.017 WAR/G) and 3.4 fWAR (.011 WAR/G). Per B-R, Anderson brings about three times as much value to the plate as he does the field.

Projecting Anderson out similarly to Ramírez, down to having TA finish with the same 1,226 games played as Alexei — which may be very conservative, due to the fact that TA will be just 31 when his White Sox contract expires, and less likely to flame out of the league as quickly as Ramírez did — Anderson will make $24 million in his White Sox career. Again using the stingier fWAR, if Anderson keeps his current WAR production consistent, he will have 13.5 fWAR in his White Sox career, at a cost of $1,777,778 per WAR. A better bargain than Ramírez, but with less production overall.

Now, for argument’s sake, given that Anderson is still young and possibly hasn’t hit a true peak of his career, let’s use Anderson’s current WAR production (1.4 fWAR/62 games = .023) as the average of the rest of his White Sox career. If he plays in the same number of games as Ramírez did, at his current WAR rate, Anderson will add 20.7 fWAR to his career tally. All in all, it would give him 24.1 fWAR in his White Sox career — a cost of just $995,851 per fWAR, which is highway robbery for the White Sox.

Number-crunching similarities between the White Sox shortstop of the early 2010s and late 2010s aside, what if Anderson became “only” Ramirez? Particularly at the team-friendly price, it seems White Sox fans should be pretty overjoyed if Anderson turned out to be just as good a bargain.

A little more light reading ...

I’m giving this an update bump, because I’d earlier overlooked two pretty significant points, one of comparison between TA and Ramírez, another that underscores just how incredible a bargain Anderson is turning out to be.

First, Anderson is on pace for 155 games in 2018, and 3.6 fWAR. That total, in his age 25 season, is better than every year Ramírez had for the White Sox but 2010 and 2011 (both 4.1 fWAR years).

Second, Anderson signed his extension at such a team-friendly rate (granted, the White Sox were taking a risk as well, Anderson could have gone all Mike Caruso on them), he has already earned the balance of his contract in value.

Say what?

Well, Anderson will have earned $24 million with the White Sox through the 2024 season. Using a current value of 1.0 WAR = $7,822,222, Anderson’s 3.4 career fWAR right now is $27,377,777 in value. (Keep in mind, WAR dollar value will almost assuredly increase, not decrease, over the course of TA’s contract, making him an even better value.)

So, with six-and-a-half seasons left on Anderson’s deal, the White Sox are already playing with almost $3.5 million in house money at the shortstop position.