The Royals designated utility infielder Jason Smith for assignment Friday to clear space on their 40-man roster for left-handed pitcher Horacio Ramirez.
Smith, 31, spent the first four month of last season at Class AAA Omaha before the Royals purchased his contract on Aug. 2. He got just 28 at-bats while playing in 22 of the club’s final 51 games.
The Royals signed Ramirez, 29, on Thursday to a one-year deal for $1.8 million that includes performance bonuses capable of boosting its value to $2.9 million.
When Ramirez’s contract was confirmed Friday by Major League Baseball and the players’ union, the club needed to add him immediately to the 40-man roster. Since the Royals had no available space, they needed to remove a player.
The Royals are close to a two-year agreement with free-agent reliever Kyle Farnsworth for $9.25 million. Accordingly, they are expected to cut at least one more player from their 40-man roster before the 11 p.m. deadline Friday for tendering contracts to players.
Players offered contracts are guaranteed to receive at least 30/183rds of the club’s offer _ roughly one-sixth of their salary _ as separation pay if subsequently released. No separation pay is provided if the player isn’t offered a contract before the deadline.
General manager Dayton Moore said he expects Ramirez to win a spot in the club’s rotation. Ramirez pitched five seasons as a starter before shifting last year to bullpen duty.
Ramirez signed last May 21 with the Royals as a free agent and, after three minor-league starts, went 1-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 15 relief appearances. He was traded Aug. 9 to the Chicago White Sox for minor-league outfielder Paulo Orlando.
The White Sox released Ramirez after he went 0-3 with a 7.62 ERA in 17 outings. The Royals signed him to provide a left-hander to a rotation that previously consisted of five right-handers.
Ramirez was 38-29 with a 4.55 ERA in 104 starts from 2003-07 for Atlanta and Seattle.
Smith spent parts of the last eight seasons in the big leagues with seven different teams but has never had more than 155 at-bats in any year. He has a .221 average in 551 career at-bats in 257 games.