The Orioles have had talks with the Rays pertaining to right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, whom Baltimore would deploy as a starter, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). Baltimore has already seen one of its top rotation targets, Andrew Cashner, come off the board with this morning’s reported agreement of a Padres/Marlins trade, so executive vice president/general manager Dan Duquette will have to look elsewhere for his rotation needs.
Ramirez, 26, has been a swingman for much of his career, making 63 starts and 58 relief appearances in parts of five seasons split between the Mariners and Rays. Tampa Bay has used him almost exclusively as a multi-inning reliever this year, but he also made 27 starts for the Rays with mostly positive results in 2015. All told, Ramirez has pitched quite well with the Rays since being acquired in exchange for Mike Montgomery prior to the 2015 campaign. He’s posted a 3.79 ERA with 6.9 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and roughly a 49 percent ground-ball rate in 223 1/3 innings between manager Kevin Cash’s rotation and bullpen. He’s earning $2.375MM as a Super Two player this season and will be arbitration eligible thrice more before hitting the open market upon completion of the 2019 campaign.
Ramirez averaged about 5 2/3 innings per start last year, though that was in part due to the fact that he opened the season in the ’pen and had a short leash early on as he stretched out and transitioned to the rotation. In the season’s second half, he averaged six innings per start, and his opponents’ batting line when facing hitters for a third time in a game (.246/.307/.373) were strikingly similar to the line posted when facing a hitter for the first time in a start (.267/.313/.387). That would suggest that he’s at least capable of returning to a starting role, though Ramirez hasn’t pitched more than 2 2/3 innings in a single appearance since tossing 5 2/3 frames in a spot start back on April 16.
Outside of Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman, the Orioles have gotten scant production from their rotation. Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Vance Worley and Dylan Bundy have combined for a 5.87 ERA this season, and while Bundy has looked promising, his innings will need to be severely limited; the former top prospect has had the early portion of his career derailed by arm injuries and threw just 67 professional innings from 2012-15. He’s up to 52 innings in 2016, so it’s worth wondering how much longer Baltimore will rely on him as a starter after shifting him into that role out of necessity earlier this month.