The Diamondbacks announced they’ve selected infielder Wilmer Difo onto the big league roster. They’ve also reinstated relievers Keynan Middleton and Kyle Nelson from the 15-day injured list. To create space on the active and 40-man rosters, Arizona designated right-hander Noé Ramirez for assignment.
Difo gets his first MLB crack of the year, reaching the big leagues for what’ll be an eighth straight season. A switch-hitting middle infielder, Difo has decent contact skills but doesn’t offer much in the way of power production. He’s a .251/.313/.355 hitter in exactly 1300 MLB plate appearances split between the Nationals and Pirates, with the vast majority of that time coming in Washington. Difo has ample experience all throughout the infield, and he’s generally rated well in the eyes of public defensive metrics as a shortstop.
It’s been a similar story in Triple-A Reno this year. The 30-year-old has logged plenty of action at shortstop and third base, and he’s compiled a .269/.311/.398 line over 306 trips to the plate. Difo has struck out in just 13.4% of his plate appearances, but his lack of extra-base impact has been glaring in one of the more hitter-friendly environments in affiliated ball. He’ll nevertheless get a look on the strength of his glove, offering manager Torey Lovullo a defensive specialist off the bench for the stretch run. Difo will be arbitration-eligible this winter and could be kept around for next season, although he’s a likelier non-tender candidate given his journeyman status and below-average offensive showing in Triple-A.
Nelson and Middleton have each missed over a month dealing with injuries: back spasms for Nelson, an ankle strain for Middleton. The former has made 38 appearances during his first season in the desert, working to a sparkling 1.57 ERA in 34 1/3 innings but only striking out 20.5% of opponents. The latter has only pitched 12 times, pitching to a 1.64 ERA with a 25% strikeout rate in 11 frames.
With Nelson and Middleton returning to the bullpen, the D-Backs had to cut one of their incumbent pitchers. (Teams must devote one of the two extra roster spots in September to a position player). The veteran Ramirez finds himself as the odd man out after posting a lackluster 5.22 ERA through 50 innings. Ramirez has punched out 23.7% of batters faced on a solid 11.8% swinging strike percentage, but he’s also walked batters at an alarming 12.1% clip.
The 32-year-old Ramirez spent most of last season in Arizona as well. He signed a minor league deal after being released by the Angels and made the big league roster in June. Ramirez impressed enough down the stretch the D-Backs agreed to bring him back on a $1.25MM salary. They weren’t prepared to do so again this winter, and they’ll now place him on waivers in the next couple days.
If no other team wants to assume the remaining $240K on his contract, Ramirez is likely to head to the open market. He has more than five years of major league service time, giving him the right to refuse an outright assignment in favor of free agency while still collecting the remainder of his guaranteed salary.