BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The White Sox declined Alexei Ramirez's option for 2016, making him a free agent, but the shortstop could still return to the South Side, general manager Rick Hahn said Monday at the General Managers Meetings.
"Essentially, the decision that was made that day was that we weren't going to pay Alexei $10 million for 2016," Hahn said. "We haven't closed the door on potentially bringing Alexei back. He served us extremely well for eight years in a White Sox uniform, and obviously middle infield is a position of interest for us going into the offseason. So we'll continue talking to his guy. Nothing has been shut for the future just yet."
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The White Sox made the decision last week, regarding Ramirez, 34, who batted .249 with 33 doubles, 10 homers, 62 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 154 games. Despite a subpar season, Hahn expects Ramirez to interest other teams.
"He's a proven commodity, and you have a decent idea of what you're going to get moving forward," Hahn said. "It's a fairly scarce position, so I'm sure his market will be strong."
The White Sox also could explore a deal with their neighbors, the Cubs, who have a surplus of middle infielders in Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Addison Russell. Hahn didn't dismiss such an idea. The last time the Cubs and White Sox made a trade was Nov. 16, 2006, when the Sox sent Neal Cotts to the Cubs for David Aardsma and Carlos Vasquez.
Said Hahn: "If it makes your club stronger, you explore it."
The Cubs have young talent in the system that may interest the South Siders. The White Sox were one of the more active teams last winter, and Hahn said the goal is to add "pieces that are younger and more controllable for an extended period of time."
The White Sox did make a one-year qualifying offer to former Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija, 31, who was 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA over 32 starts with the Sox in 2015.
"These things happen from time to time. A guy with a relatively solid proven track record occasionally has a year that ultimately, when all is said and done, looks like an aberration," Hahn said. "And that could well be what happened with Jeff. Obviously it's unfortunate it happened on our watch, and we all had high expectations, including Jeff himself. But in terms of the impact of him going forward or us going forward, I think it's relatively non-existent."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.