July 21, 2024

There were several reasons why the Tampa Bay Rays decided to release Harold Ramirez on Friday to make room for Taylor Walls on the roster.

The most crucial thing was to enhance their defense/run prevention, which manager Kevin Cash has frequently acknowledged as his team’s main shortcoming, more so than their ineffective offense or erratic pitching.

Why are they ranked 26th out of 30 teams in defensive runs saved (minus-20), 25th in run differential (minus-50), and 18th in defensive efficiency (.697) as of last Friday?

Friday’s moves should assist in a variety of ways, allowing the Rays, who are battling for a sixth consecutive postseason participation, to return to a more familiar and previously successful style of play.

“More athletic, more of the defensive identity that we’ve tended to have over the years,” baseball operations president Erik Neander said.

To get there, Neander stated that the club went through all roster configurations, “isolating our players individually” and determining “which players we think help us score the most runs and prevent the fewest runs.”

Sticking Walls at shortstop will provide a more reliable anchor on the left side of the infield than Jose Caballero, who did an excellent job. The Rays believe the differential will be enough to overcome the decline in offense (Walls has a.191 career average).

“Defensively, (Walls) is a game changer,” Cash stated. “He’s going to make everybody around him better, just the amount of ground that he covers.”

Caballero, a right-handed hitter and the American League leader in stolen bases, can now be used as a utility infielder, similar to his role in Seattle last year.

Caballero will play second base (along with lefty-swinging Brandon Lowe), third base (with Isaac Paredes playing DH and first base, allowing Yandy Diaz to get off his feet), and shortstop (as Walls, who has been recovering from right hip surgery, will not play every day). Caballero will also be utilized as a substitute in some situations.

They’ve eliminated Ramirez, their most defensively limited and roster-clogging player, from the mix, so Amed Rosario should have considerably less of a role. Rosario has played four positions (including shortstop), none of which he has excelled at, but he has made significant contributions with his bat and will be most effective as a DH/pinch-hitter.

By not sending down outfielder Jonny DeLuca (the likely other option to make room for Walls), the Rays gain depth and choices for late-game movements, especially defense.

They have greater overall flexibility to build their defensive lineups based on their starter’s type (fly-ball or ground-ball pitcher) and, if/when they add a lefty, handedness.

There are a number of other issues brought by assigning Ramirez, 29, with seven days for settlement.

One is that he was a positive influence in the clubhouse, always cheery, bilingual, and calm. He was a consistent contributor over the last two seasons, hitting.306 with an OPS of.780. This year, however, he hit.268/.589, with 40 of his 44 hits being singles, including 12 infield singles.


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“It sucks that it happens so suddenly,” Lowe remarked. “It’s terrible to see a guy like that go, especially when he’s done so well for us since he’s been here.”

“But the way he carried himself on and off the field and the way he’s played the past couple of years, you hope other teams have seen that and another team picks him up and lets him continue to play.”

The decision was also not motivated by a desire to save money.

Assuming Ramirez is not claimed off waivers, the Rays will end up swallowing the majority of the remaining $2.35 million on his $3.8 million deal, either by paying the bulk of it in a trade to obtain something in return or by releasing him. If he signs elsewhere, his new team will only be responsible for a prorated portion of the $740,000 (about $457,000).

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