BALTIMORE — A report surfaced on Wednesday that the Seattle Mariners are expected to ask the White Sox about the availability of Alexei Ramirez and others.
While the White Sox could become sellers near the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, whether or not they’d move their shortstop seems uncertain.
General manager Rick Hahn has acknowledged since spring training that his team still has plenty of work left on a reshaping process that began last summer.
But while the White Sox have pressing needs in the outfield, starting rotation, and a rock solid closer wouldn’t hurt either, Hahn has seen enough to believe they aren’t far from putting up a competitive team next season.
With Ramirez potentially under contract for two more affordable seasons, it’s Hahn’s job to determine whether or not the White Sox can win in that window or if they should trade away their talented shortstop, who is in the midst of a career year.
Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweeted earlier Wednesday the Mariners would ask the White Sox about the availability of Ramirez, Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo, whom they have reportedly asked about before.
“There are certain elements we should be pleased about with this club — the ability to fight back, rally late in games, the development of some of our new players,” Hahn said. “The evolution of some of our younger players we’ve had before. But we know there are holes that need to be plugged, whether it’s by guys improving the performance internally or from guys in the system or guys outside.”
A year ago, the White Sox had two premiere pieces to trade in Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. Jesse Crain would have fit the bill too had he not been hurt.
This year that honor falls upon Ramirez, were the White Sox to go that direction.
A Seattle scout who watched the White Sox on their last homestand described Ramirez as playing at an All-Star level.
Though he has slumped for the last month, Ramirez is still hitting near .300, has 13 steals and has been stellar defensively. Fangraphs.com said his 73 out-of-zone plays this season is tops among all shortstop in the majors by a large margin.
Then there’s affordable contract under which Ramirez plays: He’s owed $10 million next season and has a $10 million club option for 2016 with a $1 million buyout.
Ramirez could easily fetch the White Sox a large bounty were they to move him.
But the performances of Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton have the White Sox confident they’re not far off.
The front office has seen how those two have acted as catalysts and helped to revamp an offense that was downright dismal in 2013. There’s also the expected return of outfielder Avisail Garcia in 2015, which should give the White Sox a significant boost and another big bat for the lineup.
The team believes minor-leaguers Marcus Semien, Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez aren’t far from regular contributions in the majors and that 2014 first-rounder Carlos Rodon could possibly start next season in the rotation, were he to sign with the White Sox before the July 18 deadline.
Earlier this season, one team source said he’s confident the White Sox can win within the two-year window that Ramirez is under contract.
While the White Sox are high on their middle-infield prospects, there’s no guarantees any of them are ready to step in as an everyday starting shortstop, which might necessitate a trade to acquire one.
Sanchez is one possibility, but he has only appeared at 21 games at shortstop at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Last year’s first-round Tim Anderson also has had a strong start to his pro career, but he’s likely several years away from the majors.
Hahn has plenty of time to decide what to do with his team, as the deadline is five weeks away. If the White Sox got back on track, they could even become buyers — at the right price.
Hahn acknowledged that no 10-day stretch would make the White Sox buyers or sellers, that they’re taking a long view. But he did say that the farther below .500 the White Sox dipped, the harder it would be to “get to where we want to be this year.”
While the return could be plentiful, you get the sense Hahn would need to be blown away to move Ramirez.
“We have several more weeks before we face any sort of deadline and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, once we do make any decision about which direction we’re going to go it’s not as if we’re going to make a public announcement to that effect, that strategically doesn’t make sense,” Hahn said. “We’ll just go about our business under the radar as we prefer and make whatever decisions we feel are necessary when the time is appropriate.”