According to Ken Rosenthal, the San Francisco Giants are shopping relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Ramon Ramirez, with the intention of moving one of them to clear budget room; they have a ton of money committed to their bullpen and are attempting to reach long-term deals with the cornerstones of their franchise, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. They could also stand to improve their offense, and that’s a severe understatement.
Of the two bullpen guys the Giants have placed on the market, Affeldt is more attractive in name. However, his contract is set to pay him $5 million next year and he’s left-handed. Even if the Tigers could add his salary, they would probably be better served to add a reliable relief option who can consistently get right-handed batters, like those scattered throughout the lineup of the Texas Rangers, out. They could use a veteran who could potentially take the pressure of a late-innings role, or even a roster spot, from the unproven Ryan Perry. Al Alburquerque was a nice option to get righties out for a good portion of this year, but I’m concerned about his ability to stay healthy given his heavy slider use.
Enter Ramon Ramirez. It seems since his first major-league season in 2006 with the Colorado Rockies, he’s been a perpetually underrated pitcher. He’s pitched for the Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox, and Giants over the past six years. Overshadowed at each stop, he’s never been used as a full-time closer and has even been relegated from a primary set-up role at various times in his career. That’s not a knock on Ramirez. Rather, it’s a nod to his competition. Regardless, whatever team he ends up with could benefit financially from his relative obscurity.
All of the criteria I outlined above for a Tigers relief target are met by Ramirez. He’ll be 30 years old for the better part of next season and has been around the majors for six years. He had an off year in 2007, his sophomore season, in part due to injury. Other than that, he’s been remarkably consistent. At the end of each of the last four seasons, his ERA has been between 2.64 and 2.99. He’s also maintained a WHIP between 1.139 and 1.335.
He features a low-nineties fastball and complements it with a slider, which he actually uses slightly more often, and a change-up which he goes to about 20% of the time. His main strengths are limiting home runs and inducing ground balls; his GB% this year was 50%, just 1.4 ticks below Rick Porcello. He tends to walk a few batters, but not enough to be a huge issue. He doesn’t strike out a ton either. For comparison, his K/9 of 8.65 this year was just short of Mariano Rivera’s 8.8, while he walked 3.41 batters per nine, a mark exactly triple Rivera’s.
He’s not a flamethrower and won’t generate much fanfare, but he’s definitely a more than capable reliever.
The best part about him from Detroit’s point of view is that he owns right-handed hitters. Over his career, he’s held them to a .202 batting average. This would be an outstanding complement to Phil Coke, who has held left-handed batters to a .224 average for his career. With that pair taking the seventh inning behind Valverde and Benoit, I would be very confident in the Tigers’ bullpen, rounded out by two of Perry, Schlereth, and Alburquerque, along with a long reliever.
Ramirez is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and MLB Trade Rumors projected him to earn $2.3 million next year, up from $1.65 million this year. For the sake of discussion, let’s say he is actually awarded closer to $3 million. Can the Tigers take on that salary? Probably. Another reliever they’ve shown interest in is Octavio Dotel, who will probably make around $4 million.
Assuming they can take him on from a financial aspect, the question becomes whether Detroit can afford to part with whatever the Giants will want back. I’m not sure if San Francisco would settle for a prospect in exchange for Ramirez, a move which, from their perspective, would be for the sole purpose of clearing payroll, or if they would require a cost-controlled offensive contributor. Maybe Dombrowski could send some cash along with a minor leaguer. Maybe I’m crazy.
If the price is right, though, I see Ramirez as an intriguing candidate to join the Tigers’ relief corp.