The news that Hanley Ramirez was being designated for assignment – effectively ending his tenure in Boston – was received with surprise from Red Sox fans.
In the context of the 34-year-old’s contract, the decision becomes clearer. While contractual obligations don’t appear to be the singular driver of the Ramirez roster move, they were an undeniable aspect of it.
As the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier pointed out in his original story about the designation, Ramirez’s production has been in decline for multiple seasons. This made his salary ($22 million) an obvious point of discussion.
Yet the real issue that loomed over Ramirez’s continued presence in the Red Sox lineup was a vesting option in his contract for 2019. As part of the original four-year deal worth $88 million signed ahead of the 2015 season, an additional season worth $22 million kicked in if Ramirez logged 1,050 combined plate appearances in 2017 and 2018.
In other words, all Ramirez needed in 2018 was 497 plate appearances and he would collect another year of his high level salary from the Red Sox in 2019. So far this season, he’d already compiled 195 plate appearances, putting him well on the way to triggering the clause.
Had he continued to perform as a middle-of-the-order hitter, the Red Sox were reportedly willing to pay. However with his struggles at the plate (and lack of defensive ability), the potential of handing over a lucrative player option clearly seemed less desirable.
It still leaves the Red Sox on the hook for for a considerable sum of money in 2018, especially when added to other players who are no longer on the roster but still get paid:
The Boston #RedSox were responsible for $20,457,143 in salaries to players no longer on their team this year, according to #MLB labor relations, owing money to Pablo Sandoval, Adrian Gonzalez and Allen Craig. The total now will be about $35 million with Hanley Ramirez now DFA'd.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) May 25, 2018
Given that the vesting option is eliminated if Ramirez is is released, a trade seems less likely:
This is important: if the Red Sox wind up releasing Hanley Ramirez, his Red Sox contract — and the vesting option for 2019 — are gone. The Sox of course owe him this year's money. A new team then signs him presumably for league minimum—but that vesting option would not carry over
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) May 25, 2018