Alexei Ramirez’s tenure with the White Sox has come to an end.
Two baseball sources said the veteran shortstop agreed to a one-year deal — pending a physical — with the San Diego Padres on Thursday. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman first reported the deal.
Ramirez spent the previous eight seasons with the White Sox, the only team he has played for since he moved to the United States from Cuba. A Silver Slugger in 2014, Ramirez produced a .273/.310/.399 slash line with 109 home runs and 135 steals in 4,999 plate appearances for the White Sox. During a recent trip to Cuba, Ramirez had nothing but praise for the White Sox.
“I have to give thanks to the team in Chicago for giving me the possibility,” Ramirez said. “The opportunity to play eight years with them and give them my best in every year, in every game, in every day, I know that I gave 100 percent of my capacity to that organization.
“In fact, I earned the praise from the city of Chicago and this is important for me — to see the fans that love me.”
“But I am so thankful to this organization. They opened the door for me. They gave me a chance to show who Alexei Ramirez is.”
According to FanGraphs.com, Ramirez was worth 19.0 Wins Above Replacement in that period, though he produced a career low minus-0.5 WAR in 2015 when he hit .249/.285/.357 with 10 homers and 62 RBIs.
The White Sox declined to pick up a $10 million offer for Ramirez in November, instead buying out his deal for $1 million. A model of consistency, Ramirez has averaged 157 games in each of the past six seasons for the White Sox.
“It’s not for me to comment on Alexei one way or another right now other than to sing his praises for what he’s done in a Sox uniform from the first day he put the hat on,” executive vice president Kenny Williams said in November.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Before the 2015 season ended, Ramirez said he hoped to return to the only team he knows. Though the White Sox and Ramirez’s camp insisted the door for a return to Chicago wasn’t closed, the sides never engaged in serious discussions about a new deal. Last month, Ramirez suggested he still hoped to play for the White Sox.
But with a strong defender in Tyler Saladino on hand and top prospect Tim Anderson waiting in the wings, the White Sox have focused on improvement in other areas this offseason. The team upgraded at third base and second base, adding Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie, and signed catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro.
“And still if they tell me that I’m leaving or not — it still doesn’t depend on me, you know?” Ramirez said. “Only God knows the destiny, knows the destiny of my career.
“I am so happy with the team. I hope to come back to Chicago.
“I hope to finish my career in Chicago, like I’ve always said.
“Still, they will know what’s best for Chicago.”
The Padres hope Ramirez can fill a void at shortstop similar to what the White Sox have experienced at third base since Joe Crede’s last game. Since 2009, the Padres have used 18 different shortstops.