The Dodgers need a shortstop. Their need at catcher gets covered a lot more because of their connections to Russell Martin, but unless they resign Hanley Ramirez, there’s another big hole up the middle. That’s why the fact that they’re showing “interest” in Alexei Ramirez, according to a report by Bruce Levine of CBS Reports, is worth noting. However, before we get started, it’s important to remind you that a team “showing interest” in a player doesn’t really mean anything. The Dodgers will probably “show interest” in more players than anybody, since they’re a huge team and can be used as leverage by agents or teams. Still, it’s worth exploring. Even if the Dodgers aren’t actually interested in Ramirez, should they be?
The connection makes some kind of sense. The Dodgers are probably hesitant to hand Erisbel Arruebarrena the starting job next season (or at least they should be), unless they expect him to learn how to hit. Beyond Hanley Ramirez, there isn’t a lot on the free agent market, either. Jed Lowrie is probably the most palatable option out there, though he isn’t without his concerns. Asdrubal Cabrera is as much of a shortstop as Hanley is at this point. Beyond those two there’s Stephen Drew and… Clint Barmes? Really, the options are resigning Hanley, an underwhelming free agent signing, going with pure defense and no bat (internal), or a trade.
Enter the White Sox. They actually had a pretty decent rebound year in 2014, jumping from 63 to 73 wins. They’re close enough to contending that selling off seems a bit strange, but they have other needs. Tim Anderson, their top draft pick in 2013, is a shortstop and had a great season in High A both before and after he suffered a broken wrist. He’s still at least a year off, so the White Sox would need to look elsewhere to fill the hole left by Ramirez.
The Dodgers’ apparent interest in Ramirez is not without merit. He’s 33 years old, but just completed his best season since 2011. He’s extremely durable, having played in 148+ games every year since 2009 and 158 games in each of the last four seasons. He has never been on the disabled list. He also plays above average defense at shortstop, unless you put a lot of stock into this year’s defensive sample (a little below average), which you probably shouldn’t. He’s sort of the anti-Hanley so far.
While Ramirez’ defense isn’t as good as Arruebarrena, he stands out by being at least competent with the bat. In 2014, he hit .273/.305/.408, good for a 97 wRC+ (yet another reminder that offense is down). His career line is similar, .277/.314/.405. This year’s batting line represented a big rebound in Ramirez’ power over 2012 and 2013. After hitting 15 combined home runs combined between the two seasons, he matched the total in 2014. This did not correspond to an increase in fly ball distance, though. Combined between 2012 and 2013, Ramirez averaged 261 feet on his home runs and fly balls. In 2014 that distance increased… to 262 feet. That might be evidence that we should expect some regression in the homers, and that’s before adjusting for the lower home run expectancy in Dodger Stadium (14% reduction in home stadium HR park factor for right-handed hitters).
Even so, most of Ramirez’ plate discipline numbers in 2014 were right in line with what he has done over the course of his career. Even if he doesn’t produce the same 97 wRC+ as he did last season, his career rate of 91 doesn’t seem out of the question, nor does Steamer’s more conservative projection of 87. Ramirez will always be a bit dependent on BABIP, too, since he doesn’t walk very often. Combined with a projection of above average defense at short, Steamer projects Ramirez to be worth a little more than two wins next year, though it’s definitely possible that he’ll be worth closer to three like he was in 2012 and 2013.
Ramirez is signed to a very team-friendly contract as well. He’s owed ten million dollars in 2015, and has a club option for another ten million in 2016 (with a one million dollar buyout). The short term nature of the deal is attractive, especially with Corey Seager soaring through the Dodger system. Ramirez isn’t glamorous, and he’s a step down from Hanley for sure, but he’s cheap enough that the Dodgers can look elsewhere to fill their other holes.
Wanting Alexei Ramirez as a Dodger is one thing, but they actually need to trade players to get him. The qualities that would make Ramirez attractive to the Dodgers also make him look good to other teams, so the price might be a bit steep for a “good and not great” type of player. Looking through the White Sox’ depth chart, they could use help at catcher (Dodgers can’t help there), the outfield (the Dodgers can help there), and pitching. Maybe the White Sox are ready to give up on Marcus Semien at second base and want Dee Gordon, but it seems pretty early for them to go down that road.
The Dodgers’ minor league system has a ton of trade value at the top, obviously, but acquiring Alexei Ramirez with Joc Pederson isn’t really an attractive option. We’ve floated John Danks for Andre Ethier+cash here before, though adding Ramirez to that deal means that the Dodgers would need to give up more. Really, the closest thing to a match that the Dodgers have for Ramirez is probably Scott Van Slyke.
The Levine post which kicked this rumor off stated that the White Sox are specifically looking for “right-handed power pitchers,” particularly starters. The Dodgers don’t really have a lot of those to trade, unless you count Chris Anderson. That’s probably not enough to impress the White Sox. The other complicating factor is that another team which desperately needs a shortstop, the Mets, have a surplus of young right-handed pitching talent. They’re a big obstacle, and getting in a bidding war for Ramirez’ services seems unwise.
Ultimately, a trade for Alexei Ramirez seems fairly unlikely. However, it’s not impossible. The trade match is the biggest problem, but it could be a nifty way to solve one of the Dodgers’ biggest roster needs.