It’s widely known that Alexei Ramirez is a valuable trade chip for the Chicago White Sox. What is less clear, is who might replace the Cuban “Missile” if, in fact, he is traded this offseason. The answer, at least temporarily, should be Marcus Semien. Instead of trading one of their young assets such as Semien, Micah Johnson, or Carlos Sanchez, as Thomas Carannante suggests, the Sox must trade the aging veteran while he still has value. Semien will be an adequate bridge to the future while the organization continues to develop talented prospects such as Tim Anderson and Tyler Saladino.
Ramirez, who played in his first All-Star game this past season at the age of 32, is one of the better offensive shortstops in the game, boasting an offensive WAR (wins above replacement) that ranked eighth out of twenty-two qualified shortstops 2014, according to Fangraphs.com. However, the White Sox have a plethora of young middle infielders within the organization that look very close to being ready to contribute at the big league level, and a couple that already are, at a fraction of the cost Ramirez represents.
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While Alexei is a positive contributor on the field and in the clubhouse, he will be 33 next season, but still has significant trade value. Considering Bleacher Report’s Zachary Ball raved about a contract extension J.J. Hardy recently signed with the Baltimore Orioles, worth $40 million over 3 years, Alexei’s $10 million salary would be a bargain for the right team. Hardy is only eleven months younger than Ramirez, and the two posted a nearly identical WAR in 2014, with Hardy’s 3.4 barely edging Aelxei’s 3.3. Ramirez is under team control for two more seasons, due to a club option in 2016, according to baseball-reference.com.
Offensively, the White Sox would likely not miss a beat. Despite an underwhelming season in Charlotte, Semien performed admirably during the last month of the year for the Sox. He posted a .273/.333/.485 slash line with 3 home runs and 10 RBI after being recalled by Chicago on September 2nd. Ramirez finished the entire 2014 season with a .273/.305/.408 slash line, 15 home runs, and 74 RBI. There is not a lot separating the two in terms of raw numbers. In fact, as you can see below, they both seem to have a flair for the dramatic as well.
On April 15, 2014, Ramirez hits a walk-off home run against the Cleveland Indians.
Against the Detroit Tigers on April 23rd, 2014, with the bases loaded and White Sox down two runs in the seventh inning, Marcus Semien hits a grand slam to give the Sox the lead.
Alexei Ramirez provided plenty of timely offense for the Sox during his seven years with the club, but I’m confident Marcus Semien would provide a similar spark.
Semien has largely been discussed in the news by experts such as ESPN’s Doug Padilla and CSNChicago’s Dan Hayes as a potential replacement for Gordon Beckham at second base, having to compete with Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez during spring training for the position. Having three competitors for two positions, a second baseman and utility infielder, usually results in one player being expendable. What that scenario may be overlooking, however, is Semien’s experience at shortstop.
In 2014 Semien played 42 games at shortstop for the Charlotte Knights, posting a .973 fielding percentage. He’s played 250 games at the position throughout his minor league career. During his time with the White Sox in 2013 and 2014 he started four games at short, posting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. His major league sample size at the position is notably small, but his ability to adequately man the position is pretty clear. As a means of comparison defensively, Alexei Ramirez owns a career .975 fielding percentage at the position. Semien committed 5 errors at shortstop in 42 games, while Ramirez committed 15 in 158 games this season. Again, not a lot of separation between the two.
If the White Sox packaged one of their young infielders in a trade, they would likely not receive the same value as they would for a proven commodity such as Ramirez. The added value a Ramirez trade represents could allow the team to fill a big hole in left field or their starting rotation. White Sox general manager, Rick Hahn, would then be able to focus free agent spending on the bullpen, and the unaddressed starting pitching or left fielding need. Best of all, the organization would retain its most valuable asset, young talent.