Alexei Ramirez would love nothing more than to spend the rest of his career with the Chicago White Sox. Consider this a big step.
The shortstop and the team finalized a new contract that adds $32.5 million over four years through 2015.
Chicago exercised Ramirez's $2.75 million option for 2011 in December. The agreement announced Thursday adds salaries of $5 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013, $9.5 million in 2014 and $10 million in 2015. The White Sox have a $10 million option for 2016 with a $1 million buyout.
"I'm so happy with where I'm at with the White Sox, with what I've done so far, and what I hope to accomplish," Ramirez said through an interpreter during a telephone conference call. "If I'm lucky enough to play for the White Sox my entire career, that's something I would love to do."
The 29-year-old hit .282 with eight homers and 70 RBIs in 156 games with Chicago last season, becoming the first shortstop in White Sox history to win the Silver Slugger Award. He led AL shortstops in average, slugging percentage (.431), homers and total bases (252), and he ranked second in RBIs.
In three seasons with the White Sox, the native of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, has batted .283 with 54 homers and 215 RBIs.
"I don't expect to win the different awards and accolades that come with playing well," Ramirez said. "I want to play better every game, every season, and I feel that when I left Cuba, that was my goal — to just get better every game."
In addition to the deal with Ramirez, Chicago agreed to a minor league contract with outfielder Lastings Milledge.
Milledge hit a career-high .277 with four homers and 34 RBIs in 113 games with the Pirates last season. He is a career .269 hitter in five big league seasons with the Mets, Nationals and Pirates.
The moves are the latest in a busy offseason in which the White Sox signed Adam Dunn and re-signed Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski.
For Ramirez, the new deal is another step in a journey that has seen him emerge as one of the top shortstops in the AL. He was quick to credit the organization and manager Ozzie Guillen, in particular.
"It really comes down to when I first got here, and honestly, I felt like I was at home," Ramirez said. "I felt just like I was in Cuba. It's obviously a different style of game, it's a different baseball, but when I arrived, I just felt comfortable. I felt like this was the right place for me. Ozzie didn't know me, didn't know my style of play, but I feel like I've really polished my game and gotten better under Ozzie. I can't help but just thank and be appreciative to Ozzie for everything that he has done."
The way Ramirez sees it, the biggest thing Guillen did is simply show confidence in him.
"He trusts what I can do on the field," he said. "He trusts my decisions out on the field, and that type of trust has instilled a lot of confidence in me. Ozzie having played the position, he knows that. He understands that playing that position and being a major league shortstop has a lot to do with having some confidence on the field. I think that's the biggest thing with Ozzie — he's trusted me with the position and given me the opportunity to grow in that way."