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Mets winter meetings: Alexei Ramirez, trade target

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As Sandy Alderson heads to baseball's winter meetings in San Diego, the Mets GM would love to upgrade at shortstop. Of the shortstops who may be available through a trade, Alexei Ramirez is one of the more intriguing options.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Heading to baseball's winter meetings next week in San Diego, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson will be looking to fill several holes in the team's roster, including a lefty reliever and a fourth outfielder. At the forefront of the minds of the team's fan base, however, is an upgrade at shortstop.

While a full season of Wilmer Flores at short is at least an intriguing proposition, it's a risk with the team finally ready for contention, and the defensive pairing of Flores and the always interesting Daniel Murphy is less than palatable. With that in mind, and with Alderson unimpressed by the free agent shortstop market, the GM's best chance at elevating his team's production at short is through a trade. Among the names rumored to be available is Alexei Ramirez.

The 33-year-old shortstop has been a model of consistency and durability throughout his seven-year career with the White Sox. Since his breakout rookie campaign, Ramirez has yet to play fewer than 148 games in a season and has hit .277/.314/.405 for his career. While not a top-of-the-order hitter by any means, he's one of the better offensive shortstops in the league, as evidenced by his two Silver Slugger awards.

Last season was another typical year for Ramirez: 15 home runs, 74 RBI, and a 97 wRC+, good for ninth among qualified shortstops. In his seven years in the majors, Ramirez has hit fewer than 15 homers only twice, and had fewer than 68 RBI once.

On top of his proficiency with the bat, Ramirez is an asset in the field. Though last year he posted his lowest UZR(-0.7) and DRS (-4) since taking over at shortstop in 2009, these metrics are much more reliable with a larger sample size. In that six-season span, Ramirez averaged a UZR of 6.28 and a DRS of 6.67, which would have put him in sixth and seventh, respectively, among shortstops in 2014.

If the Mets were to land Ramirez, he wouldn't be locked down for very long. He's owed $10 million in 2015, with a team option for the same cost in 2016 or a $1 million buyout. Because of this short-term control, the Mets are looking to use one of their veteran pitchers to land Ramirez, as opposed to the young pitchers Andy Martino has reported the Cubs are interested in.

Dillon Gee can't become a free agent until 2017, Jon Niese is owed $16 million over the next two years with team options of $10 million and $11 million the following two seasons, and Bartolo Colon is on the books for 2015 at $11 million. Due to his contract flexibility, Niese is likely the most favorable option for Chicago, and a combination of him and Ruben Tejada—as a one-year stop gap until prospect Tim Anderson arrives—might be enough to land the White Sox shortstop.

From there, the Mets would have options. In 2015, the team could elect to pick up the option on Ramirez's final year or let him walk, favoring an internal solution at shortstop (Flores) or using the vacated funds to make a run at someone like Ian Desmond, who will be a free agent after the upcoming season. His contract also makes Ramirez a decent trade chip over the course of 2015, and the year after that if his option is picked up.

The Mets have a surplus of pitching and a real opportunity to improve in 2015 by adding Ramirez. Though not a long-term solution, the White Sox shortstop would help elevate the Mets to contention. However, if the White Sox demand one of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, or Zack Wheeler in return, don't expect to see Ramirez in Flushing in 2015.