The offseason is well underway, and just as predicted, the Chicago White Sox are beginning to hear from multiple teams regarding a potential trade for award-winning shortstop, Alexei Ramirez. CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine reported teams that are interested in Ramirez include the Yankees, Mets, and Dodgers. He also noted the Mets have shown the most interest, while having the available right-handed pitching the White Sox covet.
Southside Showdown’s Stephen Forsha asked fans a few weeks ago if they wanted to see the White Sox organization trade the Cuban “Missile” in order to fill alternate team needs. The answer to that question was a resounding “No,” as 76% of the respondents voted in favor of the White Sox keeping the All-Star shortstop. Since that time, Ramirez was nominated for a gold glove and won the Silver Slugger award. Even at age 33, his value is arguably at an all-time high because of plays like this.
Two weeks ago I went on record supporting an Alexei Ramirez trade, and moving Marcus Semien to shortstop. The option of trading Ramirez looks even better now. Three large market teams have interest in Chicago’s affordable shortstop who is playing arguably the best baseball of his life. The White Sox general manager, Rick Hahn, has money to spend and a trade chip whose value seems to have peaked right before he flies to Phoenix for the GM meetings that begin next Monday. Hahn, by the way, was also named an executive of the year candidate by Baseball Prospectus two days ago.
All About Value
Ramirez has one year and $10 million left on his current contract, with a club option for another season at $10 million or a buy out of only $1 million. Ramirez offers a GM flexibility. Do they need a stop-gap for a year, or a contract they control for a couple of years? Ramirez’s contract allows general managers with a need at shortstop to do what they want depending on their individual roadmap for their team.
Alexei posted Wins Above Replacement (WAR) averages of 3.1 and 3.3 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Jhonny Peralta, a 31-year-old free agent during the 2013 offseason, signed a 4 year deal averaging $13.25 million after posting a 2.5 and 3.6 WAR averages the previous two years. Another shortstop, JJ Hardy, signed a 3 year extension with the Orioles just a few weeks ago averaging $13.33 million per year, according to Bleacher Report’s Adam Wells. Alexei is under contract for at least $3 million per year cheaper than what teams would spend for his talent this offseason. Part of the reason Alexei is garnering so much interest is his team friendly contract; he’s an excellent value.
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As Levine mentioned, The New York Mets seem to be the team with the most interest, and the team willing to offer what the White Sox need, right-handed starting pitching. The Mets welcome their ace, Matt Harvey, back to the rotation next season and boast returning NL Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom. Zach Wheeler rounds out a formidable top half of their rotation. The Mets may be open to parting with their number one starting pitching prospect prospect, Noah Syndergaard. He has yet to pitch in the majors, but consistently throws in the upper 90s. He had a rough year in 2014, his first in Triple-A, but he had pitched extremely well at every level prior to that bump in the road.
Fellow prospect, right-hander Rafael Montero, who acquired some major league innings in 2014, might also be an intriguing option for the Sox. Although his 4.04 ERA over 44.1 innings of work may not impress you at first glance, he posted a 1.00 ERA over his last three starts of the season, striking out 19 batters in 18 innings, according to MLB.com. He mixed in some relief appearances, as well. Just imagine what White Sox pitching coach, Don Cooper, could do with this kid.
Trading Ramirez and utilizing a younger, in-house, solution at shortstop allows Hahn to acquire a player in return that can fill one glaring hole, while freeing up money to plug another hole elsewhere. Theoretically, Hahn could acquire a right-handed starting pitcher for Ramirez and use the money saved to sign one or two free agent relief pitchers. Maybe he decides to use the money saved, plus a little more, to sign another outfielder such as Nori Aoki. Either way, trading Ramirez allows the team to possibly shore up two glaring weaknesses.
I have enjoyed watching Ramirez just as much as any White Sox fan, but Rick Hahn is too smart not to maximize Alexei’s trade value when it’s at its peak. I’m exited to see how Hahn handles, not only a Ramirez trade, but the offseason moves following the trade. While the winter temperatures have started dropping, there’s no doubt the MLB Hot Stove is heating up.
*All advanced stats provided by Fangraphs.com, unless otherwise noted.