Cutting ties with Harold Ramirez is warning shot for other Rays veterans (2024)

ST. PETERSBURG — Patience is running thin, mercy is starting to wane and Harold Ramirez is waving goodbye.

The baseball season may still be young, but the Rays are not messing around. Beginning with the wraparound weekend series against the Orioles, Tampa Bay will face playoff-adjacent teams 29 times in a 38-game stretch.

That’s a make-or-break type of journey heading into the midpoint of the season. And the willingness to cut ties with Ramirez is a preview of what might be ahead for some of Tampa Bay’s higher-priced players at the trade deadline if there are not signs of glory down the road.

“I don’t even know what the standings are right now, but I assume we’re probably a few games out of the final wild-card spot,” said president of baseball operations Erik Neander. “Whether that’s 2, 3, 4, 5, it doesn’t really matter right now. We just have to play the way we’re capable of playing. That’s the bottom line at this point.”

Unfortunately for the Rays, the bottom line has not been as good as usual. When facing the type of winning teams they’ll be seeing over the next seven weeks (Orioles, Yankees, Guardians, Mariners, Royals, Twins, Braves), the Rays have a .348 winning percentage. Typically, you’ll be in good shape if you can go .500 against good teams while crushing everyone else. But habitually winning one out of three ain’t going to cut it.

The number of injuries the Rays had in March/April might make for a tidy excuse, but the players know that’s not the entire story. Most of the team’s stars have underperformed for one reason or another, and that absolutely cannot continue.

Cutting ties with Harold Ramirez is warning shot for other Rays veterans (1)

“It’s not just the injuries,” said second baseman Brandon Lowe, who has been limited to 79 plate appearances with an oblique pull. “Yandy (Diaz) is not hitting .330 like he did last year. He’d be one of the first to tell you that he’s not performing the way he wants. Randy (Arozarena) is not doing exactly what he wants to do. Every guy out here will own up to those types of struggles.

“The season is a grind. You’re going to have rocky points, and unfortunately a lot of ours have come at the same time early in the season so the numbers are a little exaggerated. You wouldn’t notice this as much if it was happening in August.”

All of this is happening within sight of the July 30 trade deadline. What do the Rays do if they’re still on the periphery of the playoff picture in late July? Do they continue to plod ahead, or decide to better position themselves for 2025? Neander points out that Texas and Arizona both reached the World Series in 2023 as the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds in their respective leagues, but those teams were both well above .500 at this point in the season.

Cutting ties with Harold Ramirez is warning shot for other Rays veterans (2)

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Zach Eflin, B-Lowe, Arozarena and Diaz will command salaries in the $10 million to $18 million range in 2025. Will the Rays try to A.) save money, B.) acquire younger talent, C.) create roster and payroll flexibility by trading some of their bigger names if they’re still hovering around a .500 record?

For that matter, Phil Maton and Aaron Civale have had disappointing numbers to start the season. Amed Rosario and Shawn Armstrong are pending free agents. You could make a case for dealing practically half of the current 26-man roster.

“We have a belief that this team is capable of playing much better than .500, and you want to see that through,” Neander said. “But by way of being at .500, these are the kind of questions that are inevitably asked. And the longer you stay around (.500), the more you have to think about it.

“Having a chance to compete for a postseason opportunity, whatever form that takes on, we’ll happily take it.”

Cutting ties with Harold Ramirez is warning shot for other Rays veterans (3)

The Rays have always been pragmatic when it comes to dealing with roster construction. They’re not afraid to flip players a year too soon rather a year too late, because they do not have the revenues to survive underperforming contracts.

At the same time, the Rays typically err on the side of protecting their assets. If a player has minor-league options remaining, chances are he’ll get shipped out instead of a lesser-performing player who might be subject to waivers.

That’s what made the Ramirez move such a jolt. The Rays could have held on to him by optioning Jonny DeLuca to Triple A, but they chose to focus entirely on the present and not worry about hoarding their commodities.

And when you look at it from that perspective, it was the correct move. Ramirez had a decent batting average (.268), but his on-base percentage (.284) and slugging percentage (.305) were far below major-league standards.

When you don’t draw a lot of walks and you’re a liability on defense, you better hit the ball with authority, and Ramirez was no longer doing that. Among MLB players with at least 150 plate appearances, Ramirez was No. 214 out of 236 in OPS. That doesn’t work for a designated hitter.

So the Rays opted to part ways with one of their more popular players.

Is that just the beginning?

John Romano can be reached at Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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Cutting ties with Harold Ramirez is warning shot for other Rays veterans (2024)


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