The Rays are bringing veteran righty Erasmo Ramirez back for another stint with the organization, as the two parties have agreed to a minor league contract, per the club’s transaction log at MLB.com. Presumably, Ramirez will be in big league camp next spring and vie for a spot on the roster.
Ramirez, 33, split the 2023 season between the Nationals and Rays — his second stint with them. The right-hander debuted with the Mariners back in 2012, was traded to Tampa Bay in 2015 in exchange for lefty Mike Montgomery, and then returned to the Rays this past season after being released by Washington.
In 33 1/3 innings with Tampa Bay this past season, Ramirez was tagged for an unsightly 6.48 earned run average. However, he posted a 20.3% strikeout rate and excellent 4.7% walk rate while also inducing grounders at a solid 43.6% clip. The strikeout rate was below average, but Ramirez’s command and ability to minimize hard contact still create some optimism for a turnaround. He was plagued by an awful .379 average on balls in play with the Rays despite yielding a lower-than-average 87.3 mph average exit velocity and 37.3% hard-hit rate. That’s not to say that all of Ramirez’s struggles were due to fluky luck on balls in play — he also allowed 1.89 homers per nine frames, for instance — but that was certainly a factor to some extent.
As recently as the 2022 campaign, Ramirez notched an excellent 2.92 ERA in 86 1/3 innings with the Nats. He’s pitched 828 1/3 innings at the MLB level and carries a career 4.37 ERA with an 18.1% strikeout rate and 6.3% walk rate. Now entering his mid-30s, Ramirez shouldn’t be expected to improve much upon last year’s 92 mph average fastball velocity, but his sharp command, knack for weak contact and experience as a starter, multi-inning reliever and single-inning reliever make him a sensible add for a Rays staff that habitually cycles through depth options on the pitching staff. That’ll be even more important in 2024, when Tampa Bay will be trying to recover from major elbow surgeries for Shane McClanahan (Tommy John surgery), Jeffrey Springs (TJS) and Drew Rasmussen (internal brace).