White Sox decline option on shortstop Alexei Ramirez

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Shortstop Alexei Ramirez has played his entire major league career with the White Sox. (Getty Images)

The White Sox have declined the $10 million option for 2016 on Alexei Ramirez, the club announced Wednesday, making the 34-year-old shortstop a free agent. The club exercises $1 million buyout.

Ramirez, who has played his entire eight-year major league career on the South Side, batted .249 with a .285 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 62 RBI and 54 runs scored in 2015, falling below most previous career norms in a disappointing follow to his 2014 season which garnered him his first All-Star Game appearance and second Silver Slugger Award as the American’s league’s best offensive player. He was also a finalist for an AL Gold Glove Award at shortstop in 2014.Ramirez, who came to the Sox from Cuba in 2008, was the team’s primary second baseman in 2008 when he finished second to the Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year honors. Ramirez has been a durable starting shortstop since 2009, playing in 148, 156, 158, 158, 158, 158 and 154 games in those seasons.

He is one of four Sox to win multiple Silver Slugger Awards, joining Frank Thomas (four), Carlton Fisk (three) and Magglio Ordonez (two).

Ramirez owns a career .273/.310/.399 slash line with 109 homers, 549 RBI, 227 doubles and 135 stolen bases. He played much better during the second half of 2015, posting a .277/.325/.432 slash line with eight homers and 35 RBI.

So what now for the Sox at this premium position?

There are those among the Sox brain trust who would feel comfortable with Tyler Saladino taking over as the regular shortstop. While Saladino’s defensive skill set would probably fill the bill, he batted .225 with four homers, 20 RBI and eight stolen bases in 10 attempts over 68 games. Others view Saladino, 26, as an ideal utility infielder.

Shortstop Tim Anderson, 22, a first-round draft pick and one the Sox’ top prospects, may be at least one season away from the majors after his first year at AA Birmingham where he posted a .312/.350/.429 slash line over 125 games in 2015. Anderson hit five homers, drove in 46 runs and stole 49 bases.While Anderson’s defense is not considered his strong suit, Sox player development personnel say it’s improving.

The Sox also announced that they have purchased the contract of left-hander Zach Phillips from AAA Charlotte. Phillips, 29, was 1-1 with a 3.13 ERA with 12 saves, 64 strikeouts and a .232 opponents average over 46 relief appearances. He averaged 10.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.

The Sox’ 40-man roster stands at 34.

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