The Twins have signed veteran right-hander JC Ramirez to a minor league contract, as first reported by Edgard Rodriguez, who covers baseball in Ramirez’s native Nicaragua. He’ll be in camp for the remainder of Spring Training, though Rodriguez adds that Ramirez is expected to begin the year in Triple-A.
Ramirez, 33, is a veteran of six Major League seasons, most of which came with the Angels. After initially joining the Angels via a 2016 waiver claim, Ramirez quickly solidified his spot on their roster, first with a strong showing out of the bullpen in 46 1/3 innings during the 2016 season and then as a member of the rotation in 2017, when he made 24 starts and racked up 147 1/3 innings. From 2016-17 with Anaheim, Ramirez worked to a 3.86 ERA with a 16.7% strikeout rate, a 7.6% walk rate and a big 52.1% ground-ball rate.
Unfortunately for both Ramirez and the Angels, that solid 2017 season ended in August when he was diagnosed with an elbow strain. Ramirez returned early in the 2018 season in hopes that an offseason’s worth of downtime had resolved the issue, but he was hit hard in his first two starts of the season. Ramirez went back to the injured list, and Tommy John surgery was recommended in early April. He missed the remainder of the 2018 campaign and a notable chunk of the 2019 season, although he did make it back to the mound for eight relief innings in the second half of that ’19 campaign.
Ramirez was removed from the Angels’ 40-man roster late in the 2019 season and elected minor league free agency after the year, though he was set to return to the organization as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training 2020. He’d hoped to vie for a roster spot, but Spring Training 2020 was ultimately canceled during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ramirez pitched in the Mexican Winter League in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, logging a combined 2.61 ERA in 82 2/3 innings over 13 starts. He spent the 2021 season pitching first in the Mexican League and then with the Fubon Guardians of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan. In 57 2/3 innings CPBL innings, Ramirez posted a 3.43 ERA with a 21.3% strikeout rate and a 6.6% walk rate.
The Twins entered the offseason with a notable need in the rotation and have thus far added Sonny Gray, Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy on the Major League side of things. President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said after signing Archer this week that while the Twins remain open to additional trade scenarios, the limited time remaining between now and next Thursday’s season opener (plus the generally limited supply of available big league starters) might mean Archer was the final big league piece added.
If that’s indeed the case, the depth options the Twins have — both in terms of veterans like Ramirez and upper-level prospects like Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Cole Sands and more — will prove all the more important this season.