Alexei Ramirez is having one of his best seasons for the Chicago White Sox at age thirty-two. His offensive production and defensive reliability are about to earn him his first trip to the All-Star game this month. He is beloved by the city of Chicago and respected by his peers. Despite all of that, “The Missile” may find himself wearing a new uniform in July or August.
With the White Sox currently sitting more than a hope and a prayer away from sniffing the last wild card spot, there are very few commodities that the organization is willing to label as “untouchable.” This assertion is backed by a recent article on Deadspin.com, by Barry Petchesky, that details the wikileaks-style dump of organizational information gleaned from the Houston Astros’ online interface known as “Ground Control.”
According to the leaked information, White Sox GM, Rick Hahn, made it clear back in October, 2013, that the only players Chicago would not consider including in trade discussions were Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Avisail Garcia, and Jose Quintana. Given the current state of affairs, that premise likely has not changed.
The lack of untouchable assets in the White Sox organization, coupled with Hahn’s desire to continue rebuilding the team with talented young prospects, should make it no surprise to many fans when the Sox announce a trade for the Cuban shortstop. As sad as I would be to see Alexei go, I would not be sad to see the Sox free up his 2015 salary, as he is set to collect ten million dollars in the last year of his contract according to Baseball-Reference.com.
After 2015, his employer would have a club option for 2016, either paying Alexei another ten million dollars or buying him out for a cool million. For the rebuilding Sox, that extra money will come in handy when holes need to be filled in 2015 or 2016. For a contender already in the playoff mix, having control of Ramirez for 2015 and 2016, with the option of a buyout, could prove attractive.
If I was a betting man, the team I feel would be most attracted to Ramirez is the Pittsburgh Pirates.
So far this season, the Bucs have been relying on second year shortstop, Jordy Mercer, but have not benefited from the offensive capabilities he displayed last year. Mercer had a nice rookie season in 2013, hitting .285 with a .771 OPS, according to SI.com. However, he is currently mired in a sophomore slump. His 2014 average has dropped to .221 with an OPS hovering just above .600. Alexei’s thirty-nine RBI and .756 OPS would be a major upgrade to Pittsburgh’s lineup.
The Pirates may also be looking for more than just a solid bat in Ramirez. Mercer has essentially been a non-factor on the base paths, stealing a total of four bases in the last two seasons in seven attempts. Conversely, Ramirez is having one of his better seasons in that department.
“The Missile” has quietly amassed thirteen stolen bases this season, being caught only three times. Add in the fact that he stole thirty bases in 2013, and it’s clear to see that the elder Ramirez gives the Bucs an edge on the base paths compared to Mercer.
The Pirates currently have a variety of good outfield prospects in their farm system, some with speed and some with power. After abysmal first-half performances by some members of the White Sox bullpen and back half of the starting rotation, however, I would not be opposed to Mr. Hahn trying to pry away a pitching prospect such as Nick Kingham, currently pitching for Triple-A Indianapolis.
MLB.com pegs him as a middle of the rotation starter with an above average fastball, change up, and curveball. My guess is that Kingham, if he continues his upward trajectory, will get get an opportunity as a September call-up at the end of this season and be a welcomed addition to spring training next season. Here’s a look at the 6’5″ hurler tossing a nasty curveball.
Alexei Ramirez has had a fine career in Chicago. He, more than likely, still has a few good years left in the tank. Whether or not Alexei fits into Hahn’s short-term vision and what value the team is able to acquire in return for his services will determine where Alexei plays out those last few years. One thing we know for sure is that only a few select players will be off the table when Rick Hahn picks up the phone to discuss the club’s options as the trade deadline approaches.