Last night we heard that the Pittsburgh Pirates were looking at Alex Rios, and also might consider Alexei Ramirez. I’ve already done a Trade Values article on Rios. That article included a brief estimate of the value of Ramirez, although that came from just glancing at his stats and contracts, rather than digging in deep and looking at him closer. With last night’s rumor, I decided to look closer at Ramirez.
NOTE: The purpose here isn’t to suggest the Pirates are offering this amount for these players. The purpose is to see the value of these players, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$5 M) - Salary]) and prospect trade values. We use our updated values for top 100 prospects, and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values for non-top 100 prospects. Also check out our values for the prospects in the Pirates system to get an idea of what a deal would cost for the Pirates.
Alexei Ramirez Trade Value
Finding the Value: What we know about Alexei Ramirez is that he has a huge contract. He’s owed $2.3 M in the final two months of the 2013 season. After that he has $20.5 M guaranteed over the next two seasons, which includes a $1 M buyout on his 2016 option. What we don’t know is the WAR. He was a 4.0 WAR player in 2010-2011, but his bat saw a big decline last year, and hasn’t bounced back this year. If you average the last three years, he’s around a 3.0 WAR player. But the problem is that last year he was a 1.9 WAR player, and this year he’s on pace for a little over 2.5. He’s also 32 years old in September. That means you can’t just chalk up the poor hitting lately to a down period. It’s very possible that Ramirez is a defense-only shortstop with a weak bat from here on out. Therefore, I gave him a 2.5 WAR this year, and went with a 2.0 the following years.
What He’s Worth: With no salary relief, Ramirez is worth a Grade C pitching prospect. He’s a strong defensive shortstop, but he’s also aging, has a declining bat, and a huge contract. A team trading for him is taking on about $23 M through the end of the 2015 season. His value is probably Clint Barmes with a better bat, but not a good bat. The main value Ramirez has is name value. If the White Sox pick up salary, they can increase the return. I’m sure the White Sox would want to do that, although I’m not sure if the Pirates or any other team would want to go with that approach and pay more in prospects for Ramirez.
Analysis: Rios and Ramirez together have a value of about $4 M. That’s not even a Grade B prospect. Instead it’s two Grade C prospects. They both have name value, but the actual value is low due to their huge contracts. Any team trading for them is going to be taking on about $40 M over the next three years. If the White Sox picked up half of that money, they’d get a better trade return. That would be worth a top 100 hitting prospect, plus a Grade B hitter or two Grade C pitchers.
The question is, do you give up prospects to get Rios and/or Ramirez at a lower price? Both guys are older. Rios has been inconsistent with his play the last few years. Ramirez looks to be on the decline. You don’t really know what you’re going to get with either player. There’s the chance that the values I’m giving them (3.0 for Rios, 2.0 for Ramirez) will be too high. Rios could have one of his down years next year, while Ramirez could continue to decline. In that scenario, even with the White Sox picking up money, both players would still be over-paid.
There’s two things in play here. One is the name value. The other is the “grass is greener” effect. Rios and Ramirez would be replacing Jose Tabata and Jordy Mercer, respectively. Rios and Ramirez win on name value. The only reason you’d be trading for them is the idea that someone from the outside could definitely upgrade what you have. But let’s look at the numbers:
Rios: .270/.326/.429, 5.5 UZR/150, 1.8 WAR in 384 PA
Tabata: .293/.351/.431, -30.9 UZR/150, 0.3 WAR in 136 PA
Ramirez: .286/.311/.358, 6.7 UZR/150, 1.7 WAR in 391 PA
Mercer: .257/.309/.383, 4.2 UZR/150, 0.9 WAR in 191 PA
Tabata has been hitting better than Rios, although he has a third of the plate appearances. Rios is a clear upgrade defensively, and has more overall value. The “name value” aspect is going to suggest that Tabata won’t keep this up, while Rios could do better.
It’s almost a similar situation with Ramirez and Mercer. They’re almost identical hitting. Ramirez has a higher average, but they’re both about the same getting on base since Mercer actually draws walks. Mercer hits for more power, giving him more offensive value. Ramirez is better at defense, although Mercer isn’t bad. I will point out that one year UZR/150 totals aren’t the best way to go. Rios, Tabata, and Ramirez all have totals that line up with their career numbers, so I trust those more. With Mercer you have to rely more on the eye test to confirm the numbers. I feel the UZR/150 numbers are accurate for his defensive skills.
In the future, I think Mercer will be the better shortstop, which makes acquiring Ramirez a huge waste no matter the cost. I actually think Mercer is better this year. The argument against that would be a name value argument, and also a lack of trust in Mercer since we’re basing his numbers on less than 200 plate appearances.
I would agree that Rios would be a good upgrade to go after. If the White Sox pick up some salary, then you could be looking at a Wandy Rodriguez type return, with a Grade B hitter and two Grade C pitchers. That wouldn’t be bad for Rios starting in right field for the next year and two months at a reduced cost. I’m not sold Tabata will continue hitting or stay healthy. If he does, then you have a strong bat off the bench, and that’s not a bad thing. So I could see an argument made for Rios.
I can’t see any reason to trade for Ramirez. I don’t think he’s an upgrade now, and I definitely don’t think he’s an upgrade in the future. He’s a name and a contract. If you look past the name, and look at the player, you will see a guy who has a declining bat, a huge salary, and is getting up there in age. That last part only suggests the bat is actually declining and could continue to decline. Adding Ramirez would be a move made only because the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. I think it’s the same grass that the Pirates already have.