The search is over.
The shortstop search, that is. The Padres have signed longtime Chicago White Sox infielder Alexei Ramirez to a one-year contract.
Ramirez, 34, is a two-time Silver Slugger and one-time All-Star who will be the Padres starting shortstop. He brings with him a career .273/.310/.399 triple-slash. In six of his eight seasons, he has had double-digits in home runs, and he has reach double-digits in stolen bases in all but one if his seasons. Defensively, he has been considered solid, but not exactly flashy: over 20 errors only three times in eight seasons. Last July, he was rated the best defensive player of the month.
Last season, he had a career-low .249/.285/.357 slash, and his dWAR was 0.3. However, those numbers would have been lower if not for a solid second half of .277/.325/.432.
What This Means
Ramirez represents a modest upgrade over last year’s Alexi Amarista-Clint Barmes-Jedd Gyorko combination–by almost any standard, the Padres shortstops were the major’s worst performers at that key position in all Major League Baseball in 2015.
Much of the speculation this off-season was that the Padres would sign Ian Desmond, four years younger than Ramirez with better offensive numbers. But as I stated in a previous post, his risks are too great, and he would have commanded a higher salary and more guaranteed seasons, which you really don’t want to give to a player with 180-plus strikeouts in each of the last two seasons.
With this signing, A.J. Preller reveals what I have suspected for a while: he is rebuilding the Padres without using that dreaded “R” word. Think about it: next year’s starters at first and second base, Wil Myers and Cory Spangenburg, will both be 25. Catcher Derek Norris (unless he gets traded) will be 27, and he has 23-year-old Austin Hedges waiting in the wings. Yangervis Solarte, at third base, will be 29.
In the starting rotation, not only is James Shields on the trading block; it looks like they are not going to re-sign Ian Kennedy. Had they signed Desmond, the Padres would have surrendered their second-round draft pick, but they did not have to make that concession with Ramirez since Chicago did not give him a qualifying offer. Remember also that they will get another draft pick with Justin Upton signs elsewhere.
What does all of this mean?
As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports noted in a January 8 tweet, if the Padres play their cards right, they will get six of the top 100 draft picks in the upcoming June draft.
Meanwhile, Ramirez will hold down the shortstop position until youngster Javier Guerra, a nineteen-year-old prodigy acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade, is ready to take over. Other possibilities are Jose Rondon and Ruddy Giron, also at least a few years away from being major-league ready.
So here’s the bottom line: 2016 is going to be a rough year. Things are going to get worse before they get better. But once those draft picks develop, the 2018-2019 Padres will be a force to be reckoned with.
But first, the rebuild.
Welcome aboard, Alexei.