HomeMLB RumorsGuardians Designate Ramon Laureano For Assignment

Guardians Designate Ramon Laureano For Assignment

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The Guardians have designated outfielder Ramon Laureano for assignment, tweets Zack Meisel of The Athletic. In his place, the team is promoting outfield prospect Johnathan Rodriguez for his MLB debut. Rodriguez is already on the 40-man roster, so the move also frees up a 40-man spot for Cleveland. Guardians Prospective first reported that Rodriguez was getting the call to the big leagues.

Laureano, 29, came to the Guardians early last August after the A’s placed him on waivers in hopes of finding a taker for the remainder of last season’s salary. The Guardians obliged, hoping that Laureano would provide a boost down the stretch as they tried to keep pace in the American League Central. The veteran did provide a bit of offense, hitting .243/.342/.382 following the claim (106 wRC+), but the Guards wound up missing the postseason.

It was something of a surprise to see a budget-conscious team like Cleveland tender Laureano a contract this winter. He wound up agreeing to a $5.15MM salary, which amounted to a significant portion of the Guardians’ very limited offseason resources. The team made that commitment despite Laureano having turned in a bleak .224/.304/.371 slash (91 wRC+) on the season overall — and a .218/.296/.373 batting line in 2022-23 combined (93 wRC+).

The decision didn’t go at all as the Cleveland front office or the player himself hoped. Laureano’s strikeout rate has absolutely erupted to a career-worst 38.6% this season. He’s hitting just .143/.265/.229, albeit in a small sample of 83 plate appearances. Just four of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases (one homer, three doubles). The Guardians will have a week to try to trade Laureano, place him on outright waivers or release him.

Given the pronounced nature of Laureano’s struggles at the dish and his relatively notable salary, they won’t find a trade market for his services. Laureano is overwhelmingly unlikely to go unclaimed on waivers due to that salary and will thus likely clear and become a free agent. He has enough service time to retain all of his salary even if he rejects an outright assignment in favor of free agency.

Earlier in his career, Laureano was a quality regular in Oakland. From 2018-21, he turned in a sound .263/.335/.465 batting line (119 wRC+) with 49 homers and 34 steals over the life of 1257 plate appearances. That came while playing strong defense across all three outfield spots. Laureano was an oft-rumored trade candidate and might well have been part of Oakland’s fire sale, but an 80-game PED suspension midway through the 2021 season tanked his value. That proved all the more costly, as his suspension surely played a role in pushing the A’s to part with left-hander Jesus Luzardo to acquire Starling Marte from the Marlins in a rental deal while Oakland made a push for the postseason.

As for the 24-year-old Rodriguez, he’ll step into the Cleveland outfield for his MLB debut after hitting .276/.389/.449 in 185 Triple-A plate appearances this season. The 2017 third-rounder entered the season ranked 23rd among Guarda farmhands at Baseball America, 16th at MLB.com and 30th at FanGraphs.

The 6’0″, 225-pound Rodriguez draws praise for his plus raw power but also some skepticism for his penchant to chase and whiff. He’s walked in a huge 15.7% of his plate appearances in Triple-A Columbus but also fanned at a 25.4% clip. That’s a suboptimal mark against Triple-A pitching but also a marked improvement over 2023’s 32.4% strikeout rate in 202 Triple-A plate appearances. Rodriguez is a former switch-hitter who now bats exclusively from the right side of the plate. He popped 29 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and he’s already slugged seven long balls on the season.

Strikeouts will likely continue to be a part of his game, but probably not to the extremes that Laureano experienced this season. Rodriguez will also add some legitimate thump to a Cleveland lineup that in recent years has been light on power but is turning a corner this season. Thanks in part to a big step forward from emerging star Josh Naylor, the Guards rank ninth in the majors with 51 big flies on the season. Rodriguez gives them another power bat. He won’t be nearly as strong a defender in the outfield corners as Laureano was, but MLB.com pegs him as a potentially average right fielder and Baseball America touts his plus throwing arm.

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