The Nationals are designating veteran righty Erasmo Ramirez for assignment, reports Andrew Golden of the Washington Post. His spot on the roster will go to right-hander Cory Abbott, who is being recalled from Triple-A Rochester, as first reported by Talk Nats. Ramirez is the Nationals’ second reliever to be designated for assignment in as many days; righty Andres Machado was designated for assignment just yesterday.
It’s been a tough season for the veteran Ramirez, who has been tagged for a 6.33 ERA in 27 innings out of Davey Martinez’s bullpen. The 33-year-old right-hander is only a year removed from logging 86 innings of 2.92 ERA ball for the Nats, but after re-signing in D.C. over the winter, he’s seen his strikeout rate, walk rate, home-run rate, ground-ball rate and fastball velocity all trend in the wrong direction.
Ramirez’s 2022 season always appeared to have benefited from some degree good fortune. His .267 average on balls in play was well south of league average (and a bit shy of his own career mark), and an 81% strand rate is difficult to sustain over a larger sample — particularly with a below-average strikeout rate.
Still, the wheels have come off far more than last year’s numbers might have suggested. Ramirez’s 10.3% strikeout rate and 6% swinging-strike rate in 2023 rank as the third-lowest and fourth-lowest of any MLB pitcher (min. 20 innings pitched). After yielding just an 88.7 mph average exit velocity in 2022, he’s been torched for an average of 92.2 mph off the bat in 2023. Ramirez’s sinker sat at 93.1 mph last season but is down to 92.1 mph so far this year.
The Nats will have a week to trade Ramirez, pass him through outright waivers or release him. As a veteran with more than five years of big league service time, he can reject on outright assignment in favor of free agency without forfeiting the remainder of his $1MM guaranteed salary. Any team could sign him at that point, owing only the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the big league roster.
Abbott, 27, was with the Nationals earlier this season and tossed four innings of one-run ball across a pair of relief appearances. He also logged 48 innings for the 2022 Nats, yielding a 5.25 ERA. Abbott has been tagged for a 5.71 ERA across 41 Triple-A frames, operating exclusively as a starter in the minors. He’s likely ticketed for a bullpen role with the Nats, where he’ll replace Ramirez. In 69 1/3 career innings at the MLB level, Abbott has a 5.45 ERA with an 18.7% strikeout rate against a 12.1% walk rate.