In the offseason, the Giants took a chance on a minor-league free agent with gaudy strikeout numbers in the minor leagues, but little history of success in the majors. He was previously categorized as a prospect because he missed so many bats, but dodgy command and control dimmed his star to the point where he was available on a minor-league deal. The Giants took a chance, and after he had a strong spring, they put him in the bullpen.
Also, I’m talking about seven offseasons ago, with Santiago Casilla. Sorry, re-reading that I can understand how you might have been confused, but the Giants won three championships with Casilla in the bullpen, including a season with him as closer. That doesn’t mean every minor-league free agent story will be a successful one, but you can understand what the Giants were thinking with Neil Ramirez. They didn’t have to look at another team for the best-case scenario. They’d lived it.
Sure, the Giants can still win the World Series this year and the year after the year after that, and the year after the year after the year after the year after that. If they’re going to do it, though, it’ll be without their minor-league raffle ticket. The Blue Jays claimed Neil Ramirez off waivers on Thursday. He’ll be taking his whiffs and command wonkiness to Toronto.
It’s certainly possible that Ramirez was just unlucky. Until his final appearance with the Giants, his defense-independent stats were stellar, mostly because his strikeout rate was high (15.7 K/9!). He struck out 34 percent of the batters he faced, while walking just under the league average.
It’s possible we overreacted to a small sample.
On the other hand, yeesh, was Ramirez bad in his short time here. The Blue Jays are having similar bullpen struggles, so you can see why they’re taking a chance, but you can also see why the Giants prefered the Kontos-like inoffensiveness of Bryan Morris. Ramirez was just too volatile.
Unlike most spring invites who don’t pan out, though, Ramirez came with a cost. When the Giants needed a catcher for a couple days, they were forced to designate someone for assignment. They had to remove someone from the 40-man roster, so they removed the potentially useful Clayton Blackburn, probably because they could get at least something back in a trade.
Blackburn has a 0.00 ERA in two starts with the Round Rock Express, in case you were wondering. The odds of him being even Yusmeiro Petit are still low, but I would still love to have him in a glass case. Instead, the Giants got a few extra days to look at Ramirez and decide they didn’t like what they saw. Mistakes were made.
The worst part about it is that not only is Blackburn gone, but Ramirez might still be good, and Bryan Morris might be as bad as he was in his debut. This could be a game of three-card monte with an earwig under every card.
It was a good gamble in theory, though. It’s worked in the past. If you needed a metaphor to explain the differences between 2010 and 2017, this will do fine: Everyone’s much older, and Neil Ramirez wasn’t Santiago Casilla. As you were.