Alexei Ramirez Is Underrated No More

This piece has been updated since the original version hit the site to reflect new information gathered about the terms of Ramirez’s deal.

Ever since Jayson Stark released his All-Underrated Team, and it didn’t include Alexei Ramirez, I’ve been working on a post about the White Sox shortstop. Ramirez was the first name that came to my mind when I read the introduction to the column, and it seems he’s so underrated he couldn’t even make an All Underrated team.

Yesterday, however, the White Sox screwed up my post by giving Ramirez a four year, $32 million contract extension. It’s hard to argue that he’s an unappreciated asset who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves right as he’s signing a deal that makes him one of the highest paid shortstops in baseball.

Ramirez was scheduled to make just $2.75 million in 2011, the final year of his original contract. He then would have had two more arbitration years remaining before becoming eligible for free agency. While a normal deal for 4/32 at this point would essentially value Ramirez’s last two arbitration years and his first year of free agency at just over $29 million, this one is a bit different. Ramirez’s new contract actually covers 2012-2015, so it’s an add-on rather than a replacement for his current deal.

For comparison, here are this year’s crop of everyday position players that were eligible for arbitration with four years of service time – this is the group that Ramirez would be in next year.

Michael Bourn, $4.4 million
Erick Aybar, $3.0 million
Howie Kendrick, $3.3 million
James Loney, ~$5 million
Delmon Young, ~$5 million
Angel Pagan, $3.5 million
Kevin Kouzmanoff, $4.5 million
Ryan Theriot, $3.3 million
B.J. Upton, $4.8 million
Josh Hamilton, ~$10 million

While no one on that list is a perfect comp for Ramirez, it gives us a pretty good range of expected payouts. If Ramirez had a good but not great year, he could probably get something in the $5 to $6 million range next winter. If he wins the AL MVP, he might get $10 million, and if he falls apart, he’ll still end up in the $3 million range. Odds are he’d be somewhere in the middle of that if he took his case to arbitration.

But he wouldn’t necessarily have to go that far. He could do what his best comparable – Stephen Drew – from this arbitration class did, and sign a deal that buys out his final two arbitration years. For those two years, Drew got $15.75 million from the Diamondbacks. His traditional offensive numbers are nearly identical to Ramirez’s, and Drew came in with a similar base salary to build off of, making $3.4 million last year. While players who sign multi-year deals aren’t eligible to be used as comparisons in arbitration hearings, you can guarantee that Drew’s deal would have been seen as setting the going rate in negotiations. And, it follows pretty well with what the other eligible players settled for.

If Drew was in line for something like a $6 million payout in 2011, then he sold his final arb year for $10 million, which is about right, given how the normal percentage raises work as you go through the system. If Ramirez would have stayed healthy and played pretty well, he could have expected similar payouts in 2012 and 2013, so the White Sox essentially controlled his rights for the next three years with an expected cost of around $19 million. That leaves the difference of this extension – which covers his first two years of free agency – at $13 million.

Originally, I had incorrectly assumed that this was the total for just his 2014 season and saw it as an overpay, but as it covers both 2014 and 2015, this seems like a much more reasonable deal – in fact, it’s now probably something of a bargain.

One last comparison. Last winter, the Mariners locked up Franklin Gutierrez to a deal that bought out his three arb years and his first year of free agency. Gutierrez was coming off a season where he hit .283/.339/.425 with 18 home runs, 85 runs scored and 70 RBI as a full-time player with significant defensive value. Ramirez hit .282/.313/.431 with 18 home runs, 83 runs scored and 70 RBI as a full-time player with significant defensive value last year. It would be tough to find a better numbers comp for 2010 Ramirez than 2009 Gutierrez, whose deal was worth $20.25 million, and included a team option for the second year of free agency at $7.5 million. If the Mariners exercise that option, they’ll end up paying roughly $28 million to cover the same number of years as the White Sox just locked up Ramirez, which is a slight premium over what the going rate was last winter for a player of this skillset, but given the inflation we’ve seen in the market this winter, it’s not a big raise.

While the White Sox have now committed to paying Ramirez through his age 34 season, which inherently comes with a pretty decent amount of risk, they’ve done so at a reasonable price. Given that the deal is an extension of his current contract, and not a replacement of it, this looks like a fair deal for both sides.



Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Satchel Price
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Good call, Dave. My thinking regarding Ramirez has been pretty similar of late: he’s pretty damn underrated (best shortstop in the AL?), but the contract he just signed seems unnecessary given the minimal savings.

Did Kenny feel like he needed to make up for the awesome initial bargain signing of Ramirez by overpaying him?

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 5 months ago

No, not the best in the AL…

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 5 months ago

well who’s better, andrus?

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 5 months ago

yeh, i’d take andrus… and as overrated as he is, jeter is still better. in a year or so, maybe even adrub.

sexyalexei also has severe cold streaks that are quite blizzard like.

not saying he’s bad, just not the best. it’s a reach for me.

Terry
Guest
Terry
5 years 5 months ago

Huh? Explain to me how Elvis and his sub .300 wOBA is better? Jeter used to hit at such an extreme rate you could make an argument but who is going to bet on that again. No at this point Alexei is the best all around SS in the AL.

And its not bizarre random cold spells. Its pretty much the same one. April to mid-May

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 5 months ago

don’t act like it’s a done deal. if going by woba alone, sure, i guess 20 less points is worse. and that was one year. what was his woba the year before? yeah… 0.322 (with a career ML woba of around the same.) that number matches what alexei puts out good sir.

i like the fielding better, the speed more, and the lack of waste for two-two/half months (1.5 months is being kind) with andrus.

i kinda lean your way with jeter, but let’s see what happens this year.

i think their WAR’s will be a lot closer than you think with all three. and there is not enough difference to anoint him the best.

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
5 years 5 months ago

Went over and checked the Stark article. That list is a farce. Anybody who follows baseball and considers his choices at,1B, 2B, SS, CF, LF, and CL underrated probably lives in a cave in Mongolia somewhere.

Guy
Guest
Guy
5 years 5 months ago

C Mike Napoli
1B Daric Barton
2B Orlando Hudson
SS Alexei Ramirez
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Josh Willingham
CF Angel Pagan
RF Shin Soo Choo
P Jered Weaver

woodman
Guest
woodman
5 years 5 months ago

Wow, your list is pretty similar to one I did at BlueJays blog Bluebirdbanter (http://www.bluebirdbanter.com/2011/1/9/1924948/the-mlb-all-under-rated-team, comments section):

C – Brian McCann
1B – Daric Barton
2B – Chase Utley
SS – Alexei Ramirez
3B – Ryan Zimmerman
RF – Shin-Soo Choo
CF – Angel Pagan
LF – Seth Smith

Utley and McCann are considered stars by most, but their value compared to one-dimensional sluggers (like Dunn) is underrated. Hudson might be a better selection than Utley though, now that I think about it.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 5 months ago

You ain’t kidding.

I agree with Guy’s list. Good selections, man.

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 5 months ago

To be fair, not many people follow baseball like the community here at fangraphs. One man’s treasure is another man’s mystery.

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
5 years 5 months ago

Following baseball fervently or not isn’t really the point. As a paid baseball writer I think you have the responsibility to do more than look at the guys with the best stats who aren’t on the Yankees or Red Sox and call them ‘underrated.’

Actually scratch that, the fact the list wasn’t entirely Dustin Pedroia, and Nick Swisher is I suppose a small mercy.

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 5 months ago

see!

heh.

Ari Collins
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

It’s hardly a perfect correlation between “underpaid” and “underrated”. I’m pretty sure Alexei Ramirez will continue to be underrated despite being slightly overpaid.

Josh
Guest
Josh
5 years 5 months ago

So far as I can tell, the extension actually covers his last two years of arb and his first two years of free agency. Since his 2011 was already locked in, it extends him for 2012-15. Thus, it’s more like $37.25 million over the next 5 years.

ek_wins
Guest
ek_wins
5 years 5 months ago

My understanding after reading the initial announcement was that Ramirez’s $2.75 million dollar salary for this year remains in effect, and the Sox bought out the final two years of arbitration and 2 years of free agency? If correct does that change the equation?

http://www.southsidesox.com/2011/2/1/1967427/alexei-ramirez-meet-market-value

Mike
Guest
Mike
5 years 5 months ago

I thought this deal is an extension (covering 2012 – 2015 plus club option 2016 which would be 2 arb years, 2 fa years +cl option) in that case, does the deal look more club friendly? (I think yes)

Newcomer
Member
5 years 5 months ago

There also appears to be a team option for 2016 at $10M. For the record.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 5 months ago

Alexeeeeeeeiiiiiiiii!!! (Oh, we had to say it once).

Alexei was his own worst enemy in the regards of creating inflated expectations. When he burst on the scene, flashing some talent and ability, Ozzie got carried away dubbed him the next great SS and all that.

The possibilities were endless, he’d bat .300, he’d hit 30 HR, and he’d steal 50 bases, all the while playing really good defense.

So, when he did not play up to the level, it was easy for others to think maybe he just wasn’t that talented.

I think he’ll continue to perform at a level for some years, likely in between his ’10 and ‘9 seasons, a 3 WAR SS.

I think 8M/y for Alexei is a plus for the team. Throw in Dunn’s deal, and KW & the CWS are making some very good moves.

I saw that Dan (ZiPS) has CWS as his ALC division champ.

Lee
Guest
Lee
5 years 5 months ago

Alexeeeeeeeiiiiiiiii!!!

YES…. YES….. YES…… YES………… YES…………………

::shoots self in face::

glassSheets
Guest
glassSheets
5 years 5 months ago

Cuddyer on the all underrated team? Apparently not enough people appreciate a “winner” who can wOBA 329 and play a negative corner outfield and 1B. Wow.

Kirkwood
Member
Kirkwood
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah, that Stark team is a mess. Starlin? Cuddyer? Dunn? What a joke.

Kirkwood
Member
Kirkwood
5 years 5 months ago

Oh, and Ryan Braun lololol no one knows who he is.

bill
Guest
bill
5 years 5 months ago

What scout said about Carlos Ruiz “I think he’s the best catcher in the game — other than [Joe] Mauer, who’s on a different planet.”

I’m a huge Phillies fan, and even I would say this guy is nuts. Um, Brian McCann?

Choo
Member
5 years 5 months ago

Baseball fact #38: Scouts of the old guard love nothing more than a bona fide blue collar catcher with sound fundamentals and a deferential scowl.* If he handles the bat pretty well and has a knack for clutch hits? Whoa. You’ve got yourself a championship-caliber field general in the Johnny Bench mold.

*Also acceptable: glowering, glaring, or squinting in a boyishly handsome Cowboy sort of way (hey, it works for Rob Johnson). Grimacing, however, is outright.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
5 years 5 months ago

I’m a Cards’ fan and damned near every Cards’ fan thinks Molina to be the best C in the NL and maybe only 2nd in the bigs behind Mauer. I, however, know that Ruiz is very good and quite possibly the 3rd best C in the NL, behind McCann and Posey. He’s certainly underrated (except in the playoffs when Buck and McCarver won’t shut up about him).

Eric
Guest
Eric
5 years 5 months ago

What exactly is Ramirez’s worth, overall and defensively? From 2008 to 2010, he accumulated a total of 6.9 WAR (avg 2.3 per season). His UZR/150 has ranged from poor in 2008 to very good in 2010, but over 3 years is roughly average. He’s also likely past his physical prime at this point and will likely be declining in skill towards the end of the contract.

So is he a 2 WAR player getting paid $8 million per year for 4 years during which he’ll be decining in value? Or is he more like a 4 WAR player (and much more of a bargain)?

Josh
Guest
Josh
5 years 5 months ago

Keep in mind that he played CF and 2B his first year (mostly 2B). 2009 was his first year as a MLB shortstop. Coming out of Cuba, the scouting reports on his defense were very positive, so 2010 might be close to his true defensive value, though likely somewhat high. He’s probably a +5 defender at SS for the life of this contract. And I expect he’ll average about 90 wRC+ for the deal, too. So he’s about a 3-4 win player right now. But if he can manage 2008’s offense with 2010’s defense, his ceiling might be 5 wins (not likely). But even if he only averages 2 wins during the extension, he’s still a bargain.

Yinka Double Dare
Guest
Yinka Double Dare
5 years 5 months ago

If he’d start hitting in April instead of starting up in mid-May or June every year, he might actually get to that 5 wins one of these next couple of years. Pretty hard when you end up with an OPS around .550 for the first month though. And he’s been consistently terrible in April each of his first three years.

Mike
Guest
Mike
5 years 5 months ago

Averaging 2 WAR per year for 4 years at 8 million per year isn’t really a bargain. I mean if you go exactly at maybe 4.5 to 5.0 million per WAR per year, it would be a bargain in that sense. But in the sense that you are guaranteeing $32 million to someone that might get hurt on a relatively long term contract it isn’t the same bargain that a series of 1 year, 8 million dollar contracts would be for the same player over the same time frame.

Remember, the market value of 1 WAR for free agents doesn’t mean that’s what they are worth, it just means that’s what the highest bidding team for a player is willing to pay at that point. And for free agents with every team free to bid, their contract is essentially guaranteed to be an overpay compared to what most experts (i.e. 29 other GMs) believe they are worth.

I hestitate to call this contract for Ramirez a bargain. For one thing, a lot of his value is built on his defense and we are still a long ways from having defensive metrics that are equivalent to offensive metrics in terms of reliability and projectability. And the last 3 years for Ramirez defensively aren’t nearly as flattering as just looking at 2010.

Time will tell, but while this is probably a fair contract it does not appear to be a huge bargain.

Terry
Guest
Terry
5 years 5 months ago

You can throw that first year out altogether. He was out of position and in a totally new situation. Even if you don’t think 2010 was his true defensive level, he pretty much still ranks toward the top for the combined 2 years in UZR and plus/minus. Eric’s point is a bottom line of 2 WAR would at least justify the deal. Alexei is quite likely to exceed that 8 WAR for 4 years. As far as injury risk that’s standard for any deal.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
5 years 5 months ago

My only concern would be that maybe (like a lot of latin players) he’s actually a couple years older than he says. Then they are paying him through 37 or 38.

Jimbo
Guest
Jimbo
5 years 5 months ago

I think once that started to impact large contracts, the level of scrutiny skyrocketed. Although, if he weren’t latin would he maybe have gotten more??? The deal certainly seems fair-to-favorable enough to the team that perhaps that played a role. Interesting point you raise.

Terry
Guest
Terry
5 years 5 months ago

There is zero to no evidence that Alexei’s age is a concern. He came after a great deal more scrutiny was cast on the subject.

Mark
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

The market for shortstops at least at the MLB level is weak as well. Good deal.

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 5 months ago

YOU CAAAAAAAAAN…… PUT IT ONN THE BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAARD!
YYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEESSSSS! YYYYYYYYYEEEEEESSSSSS!

Sox2727
Guest
Sox2727
5 years 5 months ago

I think this deal is simply a reflection of the shortstop market today. I believe the contract terms, “may” be a slight overpay towards the end of the deal. The fact is the SS market is still heavily being impacted by guys like Tulo and recollecting of Jeter’s prime. For a guy that can give you 20HR and solid defense at a premium position, I believe the first 2-3 years of this deal will be good for the Sox. I’m curious to see how a guy with Alexi’s body type responds to age and attrition. Given the power he provides and solid defense, I believe it is safe to say he is a Top 3 shortstop in the AL and being paid as such.

wpDiscuz