With free agency officially upon us, it's time to roll out the free agent profile series. And for no particular reason, we'll start with Alexei Ramirez, a shortstop whose 2016 team option was declined by the Chicago White Sox, the only organization the 34-year-old Cuban has known in his American career. The White Sox could have held on to Ramirez for $10 million in 2016 but instead opted to pay his $1 million buyout and move on.
In his major league career, Ramirez has hit .273/.310/.399 with an 89 wRC+, which isn't particularly inspiring. He's never walked much, but he rarely strikes out. His 10.9 percent strikeout rate in 2015 was well below the major league average of 20.4 percent, and it ranked 13th-best among qualified hitters. But he still made a bunch of outs, and he finished this season with a .249/.285/.357 line. There's some pop in the bat, as he's finished with ten or more home runs in six of his eight major league seasons, but there just hasn't been a whole lot else.
Ramirez stole 17 bases this year and had stolen 20 or more in each of the previous three seasons, but he's only succeeded in his stolen base attempts 71 percent of the time for his career. As for his work at shortstop, defensive metrics DRS and UZR/150 have shown a drop-off over the past couple of seasons.
But Ramirez is still a shortstop, and the Mets still head into 2016 with Wilmer Flores and—assuming they tender him a contract—Ruben Tejada as their options at the position. While some of the better prospects left in the Mets' system are shortstops, none of those players can reasonably be counted upon to fend for the everyday job at the position to begin 2016.
As unimpressive as Ramirez's numbers sound, he's one season removed from his 2014 season that was worth 3.1 WAR by the measurements at both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. The sites vary a bit going back farther than last year, but both have had him in the range of a two-to-three win player. As a point of comparison, Wilmer Flores was worth 1.9 fWAR and 0.8 bWAR this year, while Ruben Tejada was worth 1.0 fWAR and -0.1 bWAR. Ramirez himself came in at -0.5 fWAR and 1.0 bWAR this season.
Like Flores and Tejada, Ramirez is a right-handed hitter. He's unsurprisingly been a better hitter against left-handed pitching, as the grand majority of right-handed hitters are. He's not guaranteed to be any better than Flores or Tejada in 2016, either, but his track record over the past few years is better than the season he put together this year. If the Mets are to make a move for a shortstop this winter, it would be preferable that they acquire a more sure-fire solution. But if the plan is to roll a combination of Tejada and Flores again and Ramirez is available on the cheap, perhaps he'd be worth a deal that brings him into spring training with a shot at making the Opening Day roster.