Padres officially ink Alexei to 1-year deal

Veteran shortstop won AL Silver Slugger Award twice with White Sox

Padres officially ink Alexei to 1-year deal

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres haven't exactly answered their longstanding conundrum at short, but they have landed a durable, experienced shortstop in free agent Alexei Ramirez.

Ramirez's one-year deal with San Diego, which includes a mutual option for the 2017 season, became official on Friday.

Ramirez, 34, will make $3 million in 2016 with the option for '17 at $4 million. There is a $1 million buyout.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Ramirez, the team designated outfielder Rymer Liriano for assignment.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Padres, who have used 18 shortstops since 2009, have spent their offseason trying to find a fit for the middle of their infield.

"He plays, he has that track record, he loves to play. You look at the back of his baseball card, it's 144 games most years," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "That was definitely part of it. We know what we're getting into."

The team used four shortstops a year ago -- Clint Barmes, Alexi Amarista, Will Middlebrooks and Jedd Gyorko. The four combined for a minus-0.8 WAR at the position.

"They can expect a guy who wants to compete every single day," said White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing, who works with the team's infielders. "He's pretty tough to get out of the lineup, too. He wants to play every single day. He plays hard, he's very athletic. He's one of the best shortstops offensively in the game."

The Padres have a talented shortstop waiting in the wings in 20-year-old Javier Guerra, the club's No. 3 prospect who was obtained from the Red Sox in November in the Craig Kimbrel trade. But he's likely at least two years away.

Padres' Top 30 Prospects

What made Ramirez so attractive?

For starters, his track record. Only Troy Tulowitzki (33.3) and Erick Aybar (22.1) have a higher WAR among shortstops than Ramirez (21.1) since 2009.

Ramirez pegged as a better fit financially on a short deal than the other players San Diego was considering, like free agent Ian Desmond, who certainly would have cost more in terms of dollars and years and would have cost the Padres a compensatory-round Draft pick next June.

2016 Draft order

"As we looked at it, he's got a track record, played on good teams, been an All-Star, a Silver Slugger. His second half is something we looked at," Preller said. "… On a short-term fit for us, the contract terms, looking at [losing] the Draft pick as well, all those things."

As for Ramirez, he's averaged 1.9 WAR over the past three years, but his defense has slipped, as he's posted a -10 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) the past two seasons.

ZiPS projection for 2016 has Ramirez at .260/.290/.370 with nine home runs and 59 RBIs in 148 games.

Ramirez struggled -- batting .224/.249/.292 -- in the first half of 2015, but he rebounded nicely in the second half, posting a .277/.325/.432 line with eight home runs and 35 RBIs in 70 games.

Ramirez's solo home run

Ramirez is a career .273/.310/.399 hitter with a pair of Silver Slugger Awards to his credit. He's largely been durable, having played at least 136 games every season. Ramirez has also played at least 154 games in each of the past six seasons.

According to, Ramirez swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone (33.5 percent) than he has since 2009 (32.3). His walk rate (5 percent) last season was the highest that it's been since '11 (7.5), and his strikeout rate (10.9 percent) was the lowest it's been since '13 (10.1).

The White Sox declined their $10 million option on Ramirez in November, which made him a free agent.

Ramirez was part of Cuba's Gold Medal team in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. He later left Cuba to apply for citizenship in the Dominican Republic in '07, where he worked out for several Major League teams before he signed a four-year deal with the White Sox.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

Ramirez's status as a mixed-league asset is in question after he experienced an across-the-board production dip in 2015 that included a career-low batting average (.249) and on-base percentage (.285). By moving from offense-inducing U.S. Cellular Field to pitcher-friendly Petco Park, Ramirez -- who has averaged 10 homers across the past four seasons -- is unlikely to provide notable power in '16.

With the potential to occupy a premium lineup spot and receive the green light on the basepaths, Ramirez could make up for a meager home run total by racking up stolen bases. On a San Diego squad that will likely need to manufacture runs, Ramirez could stay on the mixed-league radar by reaching the 20-steal mark for the fourth time in five campaigns.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.