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Ramirez back with Tigers on Minor League deal

@beckjason
November 7, 2019

DETROIT -- Two weeks after the Tigers seemingly parted ways with Nick Ramirez, they brought the lefty reliever back into their farm system. The team announced Thursday it re-signed Ramirez to a Minor League contract, bringing a potentially valuable bullpen arm back into the fold. The Tigers held onto right-handed

DETROIT -- Two weeks after the Tigers seemingly parted ways with Nick Ramirez, they brought the lefty reliever back into their farm system. The team announced Thursday it re-signed Ramirez to a Minor League contract, bringing a potentially valuable bullpen arm back into the fold.

The Tigers held onto right-handed prospect Anthony Castro and outfielder Jose Azocar, signing both to successor contracts this week before they could hit the Minor League free agent market. Right-hander Tim Adleman and first baseman Frank Schwindel also returned on Minor League deals.

Though Ramirez played a valuable role in the Tigers’ bullpen this summer, he was a victim of the team’s 40-man roster crunch as management moved to clear roster space and protect prospects from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Ramirez was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, and he became a Minor League free agent following the World Series.

Ramirez, a former first baseman in the Brewers system who became a full-time pitcher upon signing with the Tigers last year, struck out 74 batters over 79 2/3 innings to go with a 4.07 ERA over 46 appearances. He allowed a mere .644 OPS to left-handed hitters compared with an .801 OPS against righties.

That effectiveness propelled Ramirez from long relief upon his callup in May to late-inning lefty matchups in the stretch run. With a three-batter minimum expected to go in effect for relievers next year unless an inning is over, Ramirez has a chance for a prominent role.

The flip side is that by signing a Minor League contract, Ramirez is also eligible for other teams to take in the Rule 5 Draft. It’s an unlikely move for a 30-year-old, but it’s an option for a win-now team looking for lefty depth.

The same Rule 5 eligibility applies to Castro, the Tigers’ No. 20 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, as well as Azocar, who finished second in the Eastern League in batting for Double-A Erie.

The 24-year-old Castro had flashes of brilliance as a swingman in Erie, striking out 116 batters against 75 hits over 102 1/3 innings to go with a 5-3 record and 4.40 ERA. He carried that momentum to the Arizona Fall League, where he went 3-2 with a 4.58 ERA for Mesa, allowing 10 runs on 13 hits over 19 2/3 innings with 20 strikeouts.

Azocar was part of an outstanding defensive outfield at Erie while contributing key runs in the middle of the order. The 23-year-old Venezuelan batted .286 with a .715 OPS, churning out 21 doubles, 10 home runs and 58 RBIs, but striking out 132 times in 538 plate appearances. Azocar hit .279 (17-for-61) in the Arizona Fall League with seven RBIs.

Schwindel and Adleman were both mid-season signings who filled depth roles in the system over the summer. The 27-year-old Schwindel, who made the Opening Day roster for the Royals, signed in June and spent most of the summer between Erie and Triple-A Toledo. He hit .327 (37-for-113) for the Mud Hens with nine homers, 33 RBIs and a .990 OPS.

Adleman, signed out of independent ball following two years in the Reds rotation, went 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 20 games between Erie and Toledo, striking out 123 batters over 117 innings.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.