COMMENTARY | The Chicago White Sox have a bit of a quandary on their hands.
See, general manager Rick Hahn would like White Sox fans to believe that the team is not that far away from being competitive thanks to the pitching staff, per ESPN.com's Doug Padilla. If that is the case, then what should he do with Alexei Ramirez?
The question is multifaceted.
Is Ramirez too valuable at the plate to part with? Will he have value at the top of a revamped lineup? Or should they trade the shortstop, freeing up salary space to improve the team via free agency and international signings?
Let's look at each option:
Keep Ramirez on the 25-man roster
No one is more productive on the White Sox from an offensive standpoint than Ramirez is this season. To be sure, that is not saying very much, but the fact remains.
Consider that entering play September 22, he leads the White Sox in batting average (.282), hits (173), doubles (39) and stolen bases (30). Also, his 2.0 oWAR is tops on the team by a substantial margin. The perpetually frustrating Alejandro De Aza is second with an oWAR of 1.6.
Ramirez is also one of the better clutch hitters in the lineup. Overall, he is hitting .299 with runners on and .277 with RISP. Sadly, that is quite good on this team. He is also hitting .375 with a man on third and less than two outs, per Baseball-Reference.com. As many of us know, that is an area the Sox have struggled in mightily for the past few seasons.
Finally, Ramirez is the closest the White Sox have come to having a true No. 2 hitter since Tadahito Iguchi. In 349 at-bats in the two-hole, he is hitting .290 with 24 doubles, 18 stolen bases and has been, at worst, consistent. He is not perfect, and some of the reasons that will be discussed momentarily diminish his value batting second. But with the right guys around him, he could be a very good hitter at the top of the lineup.
Trading Ramirez this offseason
Even though Ramirez is the team leader is so many offensive categories, the production is largely empty.
First, his ISO numbers are terrible. Ramirez entered the weekend series with the Detroit Tigers, for example, with a .029 IsoD (difference between on-base percentage and batting average) and a paltry .092 IsoP (difference between slugging percentage and batting average). Neither of those numbers warrants much excitement.
Second, he is not manufacturing what the White Sox need most -- runs. According to ESPN.com, Ramirez creates a mere 4.07 runs every 27 outs. That is fewer than Conor Gillaspie (4.13), Jordon Danks (4.15) and Dayan Viciedo (4.24). Like his IsoP, the deficiency in creating runs can be attributed to a lack of home-run power. He is excellent at finding the gaps and hitting doubles down the line, but he has only hit five home runs this season.
Granted, the problem Ramirez has generating scoring opportunities is, in part, due to the fact that there are not enough men on base in front of him, and when he does reach safely, no one can drive him in. But the larger issues of getting on base and having the ability to drive the ball remain.
Trading Ramirez would also create opportunities for some position shuffling. Gordon Beckham would move to shortstop, and the White Sox could have Jeff Keppinger, Leury Garcia or Marcus Semien play second base. In addition to Garcia and Semien, there are numerous middle-infield options in the minor leagues, and Ramirez is blocking them from reaching the majors.
Finally, if the White Sox shed the $9.5 million he is owed next year (not to mention future considerations) they would roughly have only $38 million in committed salaries for the 2014 season. There are teams that are in need of a shortstop. The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers mentioned the New York Yankees in an article, and they are not alone. The Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates would also welcome a shortstop with Ramirez's abilities on their roster.
I am not the GM, but I would argue that the White Sox will be best served finding a suitor for Ramirez this offseason. They are not in a position to pass up on the talent they would receive in return, and the financial implications on both free agency and the international signing period are simply too great to keep him on the roster.
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