The wait to see who is to fill the sinkhole known as the shortstop of the 2016 Padres has ended. As reported earlier by here at FriarsOnBase, the Padres signed Alexei Ramirez Thursday. The money in the contract has yet to surface. At $4 million for one year, this was the right and smart move over signing former-National Ian Desmond.
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Desmond is likely commanding a five year commitment of around $80 million, if not a little more. Desmond has declined every year in OPS since his breakout, All-Star 2012 season. Desmond’s defense is consistently below average, according to both BaseballProjection.com and Baseball Info Solution’s analyzation. Basically, his range is below average and he commits too many errors. The last thing the Padres needed was a low-on-base, low-walk, high-strikeout, below average range, and error-commuting shortstop. Desmond was too much of a risk for an organization that seems to have lost on the James Shields signing. [I’m not giving up on Matt Kemp considering how good his season was after he changed his hitting mechanics].
So we move to why Ramirez was a good signing other than that the most reasonable alternative was a bad alternative. Ramirez slashed .249/.285/.357/.642 with a 79 OPS+. To the pro-Desmond camp, I fully acknowledge that those numbers are worse than that of Desmond and that each of the two had terrible first halves to 2015 with characteristic second halves. Ramirez hit .277/.325/.432/.757 after the 2015 All-Star Break, which lines up with his .273/.310/.399/.709 career slashline. Are any of those numbers better than the corresponding ones for the younger Desmond? No. But Ramirez is a major improvement offensively to Alexi Amarista.
Here in lies the strategy and reasoning of the deal. Preller is banking on a one-year turnaround for a player headed into his age 34 season. Ramirez is essentially a stop-gap for the 2016 Padres. Let’s get real; the Padres will not compete in 2016. The hope is for 2017 and beyond.
While one should never count on prospects, the organization has three highly-touted shortstops in the system. Javier Guerra, Ruddy Giron, and Jose Rondon are ranked 1, 4, and 5 respectively on Baseball America’s recent ranking of Padres prospects. The unfortunate reality is that none are ready, in all likelihood. Only Rondon has made it as high as AA, where he struggled.
Ramirez brings with him a solid glove. His range remains above average – 4.45 per nine innings in 2015 as opposed to the league average of 4.21. While the difference seems trivially low, it is in fact a modestly noticeable difference. Ramirez consistently ranks above the league average in range and has averaged 16 errors per year over the past four seasons.
On a club that includes a consistently long disabled list, Ramirez has played in at least 154 games for the past six years.
If the first half of last season was a fluke, then the Padres can count on an average shortstop at the plate and a better than average one in the field. If last year was a sign of things to come, then the front office and fans can rest assured that Ramirez is not signed for 2017.
The plan is for 2017 and 2018. This signing falls right in line.