M’s Swap Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez

marc w · July 28, 2017 at 11:45 am · Filed Under Mariners 

When the M’s acquired David Phelps from Miami, I thought it seemed like an odd move: the M’s clear need is in the rotation, not in right-handed set-up men. With Phelps’ starting experience, I thought they could change his role and address the issue, but Jerry Dipoto went another route: Phelps arrival meant that the glut of RHRPs could be used to acquire SP help. And that’s just what he’s done – by sending Cishek to Tampa, he’s allowed the M’s to reunite with SP/RP Erasmo Ramirez, who the M’s traded for Mike Montgomery right at the end of spring training in 2015. Another command/control righty without plus stuff? Well, yes, fair point, but this seems like a great move for both teams.

Since that trade in March of 2015, Erasmo’s worked mostly out of the pen as a newfangled kind of long reliever, somewhat similar to the role that Emilio Pagan’s now playing in Seattle. He’s also made 36 starts for the Rays, and that’s the role the M’s will likely use him. He’s made some adjustments since last we saw him in an M’s uniform: he picked up a cutter last year, and is now throwing it over 25% of the time. It’s an arrow-straight pitch that results in elevated contact, and he essentially uses it as his fastball to lefties, pairing it with his best pitch, the change-up many M’s fans remember from his debut back in 2012. That change has, er, changed as well. When he came up, it was about 11-12 MPH slower than his fastball. It’s now much firmer, at 84 MPH, it’s 3 MPH faster than it was in 2012, and as his fastball velocity’s dropped, the gap between them is down to about 7-8 MPH. The slider and curveball that were so ineffective for him in Seattle have been re-worked, with the curve all but gone from his arsenal, and the slider a very occasional pitch he’ll use to righties to steal a strike.

He was never a really high strikeout guy, and he’s not now. His ground ball rate shot up in Tampa due to a much heavier reliance on his solid sinker. That said, HR problems – one of the reasons Seattle gave up on him – is still a part of his game. That’s one of the reasons his FIP’s been pretty high these past two years, and while Erasmo’s ERA came in much lower in 2016, it hasn’t this year. That’s why he’s available, of course, and it’s why his rest-of-season projections aren’t all that great. Still, there’s upside in there, particularly if his strand rate regresses anywhere close to his career averages, and Erasmo is a far sight better than the M’s current 4th-5th starters. And all it cost them in trade was a righty set-up guy made superfluous by Phelps.

I’ve been one of Erasmo’s biggest fans since scouting his stat line in the old Venezuelan summer league, and was pretty frustrated with the M’s inability to help him out of his struggles in 2014-15, frustrations evidently shared by ex-M’s staffer Tony Blengino. I understood and even liked the trade to Tampa, as Erasmo was clearly never going to get either a) better or b) a real shot under the previous regime. I’m glad he’s developed elsewhere and can help the M’s now. Even as irrationally fond of him as I am, I understand this could fail to do much of anything for the M’s playoff chances. Erasmo’s HR struggles aren’t likely to be improved by Safeco Field, and Erasmo’s developed some odd platoon splits over the past couple of years, as lefties have learned to batter his fastball. He’s been awful in the rotation this year for Tampa, as well. Still, while I’ve had my issues with the last few trades, this one is a no-brainer, and a solid move by the front office.

They help cover their biggest weakness, while Tampa gets a righty reliever better than Sergio Romo. The emergence of Jacob Faria meant Erasmo really had no chance to start anymore, and they’re looking for more traditional set-up guys as they make their own playoff push. Steve Cishek’s death-to-righties arsenal is perfect for a team in their position. As a command/control righty, you have to assume Dipoto’s been longing to get Erasmo back for a while. He’s much further along than Marco Gonzales, but the same issues with development are still relevant: the M’s need to make some tweaks to get the most out of him, and that’s a bit of a concern. Can this team that couldn’t help, say, Christian Bergman/Chase de Jong help Erasmo now? We’ll see, but for now it’s nice to see the M’s upgrade their command/control depth so easily and so comprehensively.


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