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Levine: Ramirez Top Trade Chip For White Sox

By Bruce Levine--

(CBS) -- The White Sox are looking more like pretenders than contenders every day and have one of the most attractive position players to move before the July 31 trading deadline. Alexei Ramirez has been the top shortstop in the American League since the beginning of the 2014 season.

Ramirez signed a four-year contract that began in 2012. He is making $9.5 million in 2014 and will make $10 million in 2015, while the White Sox own a $10 million club option on him for 2016. At a time when top shortstops make $20 million (see Troy Tulowitzki), the payday for Ramirez would be easy to absorb even for a small-market club. Economic certainty for any team at a key position would be a huge selling point.

The White Sox aren't champing at the bit to trade the 32-year-old Ramirez. That said, it's better to move a player a year too early than a season too late. The late Branch Rickey invented that expression. He would consistently trade average Brooklyn Dodger talent for a stud from a small-market team to get the needed pieces to make another pennant push.

Chicago was approached by Pittsburgh and St Louis at the trading deadline last season. White Sox brass didn't hear enough from either club to move Ramirez. This season the Cardinals may indeed make a more serious bid. They know that recently signed free agent Johnny Peralta would be better off playing third base full time due to a lack of range.

The Sox won't force the issue on other clubs. However, if they hope to get a honey hole of young talent back for Ramirez, the time is now to make a deal. Maybe another American League club will give them a decent prospect for Adam Dunn if the Sox eat the majority of his prorated $16 million salary.

It's possible that Seattle will finally give Chicago good left-handed hitting for Dayan Viciedo, who the Mariners have coveted for two seasons. The reality is if you want to get real value for a player in the prime of his career, you make a deal that continues the player development formula. The White Sox's game plan for the future was laid out last season, when veterans Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and Matt Thornton were dealt before the trade deadline.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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