Veteran middle infielder Alexei Ramirez was released by the Padres on Sunday, according to MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell. Ramirez was brought on board in the offseason to cover the club’s shortage of viable shortstops, but it quickly became apparent that the 34-year-old didn’t quite gel with the youth-centered rebuild manager Andy Green had in mind.
Over 128 games in San Diego, Ramirez cultivated a .240/.275/.330 slash line, hitting career lows with just five home runs and a -0.2 fWAR. Production issues aside, he found his infield range diminished and was frequently squeezed out of the lineup by 23-year-old infielder Luis Sardinas. He shifted to right field during his last few starts, acting as a stopgap in the absence of center fielder Jon Jay and utility man Alexi Amarista. With both Jay and Amarista due back from the disabled list later this week, it seemed as good a time as any to restructure the Padres’ infield and outfield options.
As Green put it:
It’s been a tough adjustment for him, being on the field sporadically. It’s different. He’s been doing it another way his whole career.
The Padres’ manager hopes Ramirez will find another landing place before the season’s end, though his skill set lends itself better to an outfield role than another stint at shortstop. Ramirez will receive the rest of his $3 million salary for 2016 and a $1 million buyout for the 2017 season.
Whether or not Green’s rebuilding strategy will take root over the next few seasons remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: with or without Alexei Ramirez, the Padres are still not ready to contend in 2016.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.