As is typical for the Rays in a given offseason, they’ve been active on the trade market so far in 2023-24. Tampa Bay has shipped out Tyler Glasnow, Manuel Margot, Luke Raley, Andrew Kittredge, Vidal Brujan and Calvin Faucher in a quartet of deals, and they’re likely not finished. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Rays have been shopping first baseman/left fielder/designated hitter Harold Ramirez to clubs in need of a right-handed bat.
The Rays’ willingness to trade Ramirez isn’t necessarily new or surprising. He stood as a logical trade candidate coming into the winter, given his projected $4.4MM salary in arbitration (courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) and dwindling club control. Ramirez has just two years of club control remaining and limited defensive value, and Tampa Bay has regularly proven willing to trade bats fitting that description over the years. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported back in November that the Rays had explored trade scenarios involving Ramirez leading into the non-tender deadline. Still, it’s notable to see Rosenthal suggest that talks are ongoing and to suggest that the Rays themselves have initiated at least some of them.
Ramirez, 29, is out of minor league options — although his recent track record in the big leagues should leave him in no danger of being sent down anyhow. Since being acquired from the Cubs in a trade sending Esteban Quiroz back to Chicago, he’s tallied 869 plate appearances and turned in a .306/.348/.432 batting line with 18 home runs, 43 doubles, a pair of triples and eight steals (in 16 attempts). Ramirez hasn’t walked much in that time (4.7%) but has a lower-than-average strikeout rate (17.4%). By measure of wRC+, he’s been 23% better than average at the plate in a Rays uniform.
Of course, some of that stems from the Rays’ aggressive utilization of platoon setups. Ramirez has more than held his own against righties both with the Rays (.279/.332/.401, 107 wRC+) and in his career (.275/.314/.404, 99 wRC+). However, the overwhelming bulk of his damage has come when he’s feasted against left-handed pitching (.374/.412/.509 with Tampa Bay; .323/.363/.453 in his career).
The Rays gave Ramirez a combined 401 innings between first base and the outfield corners in 2022 but cut that already-small total to a tiny 117 innings in 2023. It’s clear that the organization is hardly enamored of his defensive aptitude, but there’s also little doubt that Ramirez can flat-out hit. He has more gap power than true home run pop, but any team in search of a right-handed bat would figure to be intrigued by the possibility of plugging Ramirez into at least a part-time role. Depending on the fit, he could profile as an everyday option for a team without a set option at designated hitter and/or some flexibility at first and in the outfield corners.
The deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration figures is this coming Friday. That’s hardly a set deadline to move arb-eligible players, but it has also at times served as an impetus for some movement on the trade market for such players. Moving Ramirez could create some extra opportunities for the latest wave of talented young Rays hitters — a group including the likes of Curtis Mead, Jonathan Aranda and top prospect Junior Caminero. From a payroll vantage point, moving Ramirez would drop Tampa Bay’s projected Opening Day mark south of $90MM, creating additional room to pursue help at other areas of need (e.g. catcher, starting pitching) in free agency.