Aramis Ramirez hinted all year that this would be his final season and now the 37-year-old third baseman is officially calling it a career, retiring after 18 seasons in the majors.
Ramirez is one of the most underrated right-handed hitters of this era, batting .283 with 386 homers, 495 doubles, and an .833 OPS in 2,194 games for the Pirates, Cubs, Brewers, and Pirates again.
He made three All-Star teams and ranks among the top 10 for active players in runs scored, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits, and times on base. Oh, and he earned nearly $150 million.
Durable and consistent, he topped an .800 OPS in all but one season from 2004 to 2013, hit 25 or more homers 10 different times, and batted .300 or better in seven seasons.
Ramirez debuted at 20, finished playing at 37, and was a really, really good player for nearly that entire time.
San Francisco parted ways with two veteran outfielders, declining 2016 options on Marlon Byrd and Norichika Aoki.
Byrd was an easy call, as his contract called for an $8 million salary and required no buyout to avoid. Acquired from the Reds on August 20, he hit well in 39 games for the Giants but finished the season with a modest .247 batting average and .743 OPS in 135 games overall. Byrd still has very good power, smacking 23, 25, and 24 homers in the past three seasons, but his abysmal strike-zone control led to a sub-.300 on-base percentage and he’s 38 years old. Byrd should be able to find a prominent role in 2016, but his price tag figures to be well below $8 million.
Aoki was a tougher call, because when healthy he’s absolutely been a $5.5 million player by combining excellent contact skills, a good on-base percentage, and solid range in the outfield. Unfortunately he was limited to just 93 games this year due to injuries, including a concussion, and at age 34 the Giants decided not to commit to him this early in the offseason. It’s possible they could look to re-sign Aoki later on, but in the meantime he got a $700,000 buyout.
Left-hander J.P. Howell has decided to remain with the Dodgers in 2016, exercising his $6.25 million player option.
Howell is often overlooked because of his modest velocity, but he posted a 1.43 ERA in 44 innings this year and has a combined 2.64 ERA in 434 appearances dating back to 2008.
However, rather than test the open market in search of a multi-year contract at age 33 he’ll take the guaranteed payday and stay with the Dodgers for a fourth season. And if any team can afford to pay $6.25 million for a middle reliever it’s certainly Los Angeles.
Ryan Raburn is a free agent, as the Indians declined his $3 million option and paid him a $100,000 buyout instead.
Raburn is a solid role player with some defensive versatility and a good platoon bat versus left-handed pitching, but his performance has varied wildly from year-to-year and he’s now 35 years old.
This year he hit .301 with eight homers and a career-best .936 OPS in 82 games for the Indians and he also posted a .901 OPS for Cleveland in 2013. However, in between he hit just .200 with a .547 OPS in 2014 and Raburn was even worse in 2012.
He should find a part-time role somewhere, but may have to settle for a minor-league contract.
Last week pitching coach Mike Maddux told the Rangers he wanted to shop around rather than re-signing for an eighth season in Texas and now we know why, as Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that Maddux is “likely” to be hired by the Nationals.
Maddux has long been considered one of the game’s best pitching coaches and during his seven-season run in Texas the Rangers ranked sixth among American League teams in ERA despite playing in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.
Now he’ll work under new manager Dusty Baker and try to get the most out of a star-studded pitching staff that includes Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jonathan Papelbon. Baker’s reputation for handling pitchers is shaky, but given Maddux’s track record it seems likely he’ll have most of the control over the staff.
Texas is expected to replace Maddux with Doug Brocail, who spent this year as a Double-A pitching coach in the Astros’ farm system.