White Sox's first order of business: Shortstop

CHICAGO -- While it is unclear how many roster decisions the Chicago White Sox will make in the offseason, the first one is expected to come at shortstop.

The White Sox have until three days after the World Series is completed to decide if they will activate a $10 million team option on shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

And while the obvious choice might be to move on and spend the cash elsewhere, the decision might not be so simple. A number of options exist:

1. Agree to the option with Ramirez that would complete the contract extension he signed in 2011 and make him the shortstop for one last year.

2. Decline the option on Ramirez, spend the money elsewhere and either find a replacement shortstop or move Tyler Saladino into the position, assuming prospect Tim Anderson is not ready by next season. The new replacement, or Saladino, would then hold the spot until Anderson is ready.

3. Agree to the $10 million option with Ramirez on the hope that he can be traded over the winter, at least getting something in return for a player who otherwise would have been cut free.

4. Agree to the $10 million option on Ramirez, make him the Opening Day shortstop and line up possible trade scenarios by the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.

Ramirez’s maddening tendency of up-and-down seasons would suggest a better year in 2016, but at 34, his ability to keep rebounding is waning. His chances of returning to the All-Star level he showed in 2014 also seems less likely.

But a one-year deal at $10 million, which has become modest by today’s standards, would not be completely debilitating for the White Sox, even as they try to become a more dynamic team.

Ramirez says he is not thinking about his uncertain status as he heads into the offseason, but the situation is hard to deny.

“Yes, it’s kind of tough because I have been here for eight years and I like this team,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “I like all of the people that work here. They’re like my family. I don’t want to even think about being on another team. I want to be here, and I want to finish my career here.”

Known for his defense, even that part of Ramirez’s game was a roller-coaster ride this year. Helping to sharpen his focus in that part of the game, though, was the arrival of above-average defenders such as Carlos Sanchez and Saladino.

“They are very young and talented players, and they know how to play the game,” Ramirez said. “It’s good, because they came with a fresh energy, and that’s good. When you see them play, like the way they’re playing, that motivates you more to be on that level also.”

It is true Ramirez’s defense did improve after Sanchez arrived. And while Saladino’s glove is impressive, Ramirez can still offer a more complete package if he plays to his capabilities, even at his advanced age.

It’s up to the White Sox to decide if they will get a motivated Ramirez next year, which will be a big factor in their decision.

“I am just focusing on my game,” Ramirez said. “I don’t want to think ahead about that, at least for now. We’ll see what happens after tomorrow, but I am just focusing on my game today.”