In a stunning development, the Red Sox designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment on Friday, cutting ties with him before the end of his four-year, $88-million contract that never worked out for the team.
The Boston Globe was the first to report the story.
The Red Sox were in need of a roster spot with the pending return of second baseman Dustin Pedroia today, but speculation had centered around the team attempting to move catcher/utility man Blake Swihart, who has just 33 at-bats through the first 50 games.
Instead, the Sox cut ties with Ramirez, who had played 44 of the team's 50 games -- most often hitting third in their lineup -- and was tied for third on the team with 29 RBI.
Ramirez, 34, had been in a horrendous slump in May and was hitless in his last 21 at-bats, including an 0-for-4 showing with three strikeouts Thursday at Tropicana Field. After a strong April (.857 OPS), Ramirez has a slash line (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging average) of .163/ .200/.300 for the month of May. In the aftermath of Thursday's 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay, manager Alex Cora expressed hope Ramirez would soon work his way out of his month-long funk with improved plate discipline.
The Red Sox now have seven days to trade or release Ramirez, as it's unfathomable that any team would take on the approximately $15 million he has remaining for this season as part of the final guaranteed year on his deal. Since the Red Sox will be responsible for that if he's not picked up elsewhere, they will likely signal a willingness to take back a good chunk of the remaining money to increase the chances of a deal.
However, further lessening Ramirez's value is the fact that he has a vesting option for another $22 million for 2019, which would trigger if he accumulated 497 plate appearances this season. He currently has 195 plate appearances.
If, as expected, Ramirez isn't traded, he'll almost certainly clear waivers. A team could them claim him and pay him the pro-rated minimum salary -- while the Red Sox responsible for the remaining $15 million -- while also getting out from underneath the vesting option for 2019, since Ramirez will, in effect, be signing a "new contract'' with that team.
The Red Sox' move was undoubtedly motivated