According to Jeff Todd (MLB Trade Rumors), the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners have completed another trade, this time for RHP Steve Cishek. The move may explain Kevin Cash’s hesitance to use Ramirez in the extra inning loss to the New York Yankees last night.
The Marines are closing in on a deal to add righty Erasmo Ramirez from the Rays, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com (via Twitter). Right-handed reliever Steve Cishek would head to Tampa Bay in return, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link).
Ramirez, 27, has functioned as a swingman for the Rays since coming over from Seattle before the 2015 season. Now, he’ll head back to his original organization to provide another rotation option. With two more years of arbitration eligibility, he’ll also represent a potential part of the staff through 2019.
While Ramirez carries only a 4.80 ERA on the year, and has worked mostly from the pen over the past two campaigns, he has mostly been himself in 2017. The positive areas (7.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 48.6% groundball rate) are on par with Ramirez’s career figures, and the problems (1.30 HR/9) are familiar. His velocity and swinging-strike rate sit right at career averages.
If and when his 63.8% strand rate normalizes, Ramirez will likely settle back into being a useful back-end starter or solid long-relief arm. And that’s what the M’s will need from him to stay in contention down the stretch. Seattle has cycled through starters for much of the year and still has an uncertain rotation mix. It’ll be interesting to see whether the club continues exploring the market for starters.
Of course, that came at a cost, as the Mariners will sacrifice a solid late-inning option in Cishek. That’s just what the Rays have been searching for, with the team perhaps more willing to part with Ramirez with a variety of rotation options at or near the MLB level.
The 31 year-old Cishek carries a 3.15 ERA/4.80 FIP over 20 innings of work this season, with a 6.75 K/9 and a 3.15 BB/9. What really stands out for the right-hander though is his ability to induce ground balls (61.4% ground ball rate) at a high level — which bodes well for Tampa Bay’s infielders when they choose to make plays — and his ability to miss barrels and limit hard contact (26.3 % soft contact rate, 45.6 % medium contact rate, 28.1 % hard contact rate).
His splits against left and right handed batters — .150 BA/.261 OBP/.500 SLG/.761 OPS/.299 wOBA vs LHH, .192 BA/.263 OBP/.275 SLG/.516 OPS/.241 wOBA vs RHH — make him more than a one and done type of pitcher … although his unsightly .500 SLG against lefties makes him a better option against righties. The American League East is loaded with right-handed bats, and in that way Cishek is a big upgrade over Ramirez.
The Rays would control Cishek until the end of the season, after which he will become a free-agent.
In the end, Erasmo was beloved by the team, as well as one of the better pitching options for Tampa Bay, since coming over from Seattle in 2015. However, the Rays had a glaring need in the ‘pen going into their playoff push, and the front office devised a plan to get a dominant, extreme ground-ball pitcher — a hurler that helps lesson the probability of what happened a night ago.
All told, there 20 active relief pitchers that have at least 250 career appearances and hold a sub-2.90 ERA … and the Rays have acquired three of them this week in Cishek, Dan Jennings and Sergio Romo.