The Guardians have acquired reliever Yohan Ramirez from the Mariners in exchange for cash, according to announcements from both teams. Cleveland placed James Karinchak on the 60-day injured list in a corresponding 40-man roster move.
Seattle designated Ramirez for assignment last week. Rather than wait for the 27-year-old to land on waivers, the Guardians jumped the line by sending cash to the M’s. Ramirez still has a pair of minor league option years remaining, so he’ll add a bullpen depth option with some roster flexibility to the organization.
Originally an Astros’ farmhand, Ramirez landed in Seattle via the 2019 Rule 5 draft. He stuck on the active roster for the shortened 2020 season, tossing 20 2/3 innings of primarily low-leverage work. The right-hander posted a 2.61 ERA as a rookie, but he walked an untenable 21.3% of batters faced. Ramirez averaged nearly 96 MPH on his fastball and struck out 27.7% of batters faced, though, and the M’s were impressed enough to keep him around in hopes he could emerge as a long-term middle innings option.
That didn’t wind up coming to fruition, even as Ramirez made marginal improvements from a control perspective. Home runs became a particular problem, as he was tagged for nearly two homers per nine innings over 25 appearances in 2021. He’s allowed another trio of longballs in 8 1/3 innings early this season, and the M’s decided to reallocate his spot on the 40-man roster.
That Ramirez can bounce between Cleveland and Triple-A Columbus is no doubt of some appeal to the Guardians front office. His career 13.6% swinging strike percentage is above-average, and he’s induced infield fly balls at a rate nearly double the league mark. That was enough promise for Cleveland to add him to the bullpen depth chart.
Karinchak hasn’t pitched this season. He opened the year on the IL due to a lower back strain, and today’s transfer means he won’t return until the first week of June at the earliest. A specific timetable for his recovery isn’t clear, although it’s not likely Karinchak would’ve been in position to return by the end of this month anyhow given that he’s yet to embark on a minor league rehab assignment.
The 26-year-old made his MLB debut at the end of the 2019 season and looked like a late-game stopper the following year. The righty struck out a laughable 48.6% of opponents in 27 innings that year en route to a 2.67 ERA. He did show some strike-throwing issues, though, and his walk concerns became more pronounced when his strikeout rate fell to a mortal (although still excellent) 33.2% last season. Karinchak pitched to a 4.07 ERA in 55 1/3 frames in 2021.