The Red Sox needed to cut someone from their roster in order to activate Dustin Pedroia, who has been on the disabled list recovering from knee surgery all season. The expectation was Blake Swihart, who has languished on the bench out of options since Opening Day, would be designated for assignment, but the Red Sox went in a different direction: Hanley Ramirez, in the final season of a four-year, $88 million, will be designated instead.
Ramirez hasn’t hit since 2016: across the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, the first baseman/designated hitter has compiled a .245/.318/.421 line that’s only good for an OPS+ of 92: that’s below-average in general, but even more so for the positions that Ramirez plays. Considering he was playing poorly over an extended period of time, is 34 years old, and had an option for 2019 that would have vested for sure barring a lengthy stay on the disabled list this summer — he only needed 497 plate appearances to get there, and it would have earned him $22 million for next year — it’s not that much of a surprise that Ramirez was designated, other than we’re still not quite used to teams cutting bait when a contract isn’t working out.
This won’t change Boston’s finances for 2018, but it does open up some room on what is currently a league-leading payroll as far as 2019 is involved, and in the present, creates more playing time for Mitch Moreland. It also lets them hang on to the versatility of Eduardo Nuñez and Brock Holt, and lets the Blake Swihart experiment continue onward: possibly even with some playing time mixed in now.
Swihart, once a top prospect, has suffered through injuries and disappointment at the plate, and has been limited to just 33 plate appearances in 17 games in 2018: he’s only on the big-league roster because he was out of options, and Boston didn’t want to lose him. Despite all of his setbacks, he is still just 26, and hasn’t had a chance for consistent big-league playing time yet. He’s not about to become a starting position player, but Ramirez’s absence should open up some more time for Swihart.
As for where Ramirez goes next: it’s unlikely any team goes out of their way to acquire him, considering he needs just 302 more plate appearances to ensure his 2019 option and a $22 million payday. Boston has seven days to trade or release him, and it’s going to be the latter barring a serious surprise acquisition.