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2023 Athletics Season in Review: Ramon Laureano

“Laser” struggled to regain his pre-suspension form and Oakland finally decided to let him figure it out somewhere else.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

One of the last remaining players from the Oakland Athletics’ last playoff core, Ramon Laureano was hoping to have a big comeback season in 2023 following a lackluster return from his 80-game suspension. If he’d found his form, the A’s would’ve likely traded him to a contender at the trade deadline with 2.5 years of control remaining. Unfortunately, he never got going and the A’s released him shortly after the deadline to find another opportunity.

How Acquired?

One of the biggest steals during the previous era of Oakland baseball, the A’s acquired Laureano during the 2017-18 offseason from the Houston Astros for starter Brooks Raley in a minor prospect-for-prospect trade. Laureano ended up breaking out the following season and became a core contributor for the A’s 2018-2020 playoff teams. On top of adding power and speed to the lineup, he became a fan favorite and earned the nickname “Laser” for his incredible throws (I was present for this one).

What were the expectations?

After ending the 2022 season with a 91 wRC+, there was reasonable optimism that he could get closer to the career 119 wRC+ he had pre-suspension and become an attractive trade chip at the deadline. He’d also transitioned from center to right field the past couple of years in deference to speedsters Cristian Pache and Esteury Ruiz, so he at least could be relied on for strong defense.

2023 Results

The comeback never materialized as his .213/.280/.364 batting line with Oakland ended up nearly identical to the previous season. The A’s — wanting to grant him a fresh start and open up playing time for their young guys — released him shortly after the trade deadline passed. The Cleveland Guardians, not having much to lose, picked Laser up and gave him 36 starts between center and right field. He had a bit more success in Cleveland, ending with a batting line of .243/.342/.382.

What went right? What went wrong?

Though he never got back to being the old Ramon that we all loved, he was at least a consistent name in the lineup for a 2023 team that had very few of those. Unfortunately, he didn’t contribute much when he was in the lineup but he still played strong defense in right field, racking up 6 assists and 0.8 dWAR in just 64 games.

2024 Outlook

Laureano has 2 arbitration seasons left, meaning he won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 season. According to Fangraphs, he’s projected to be the Guardian’s Opening Day right fielder and hit fifth in the lineup. Still only 29 years old, he still has plenty of time to hit a new stride and get a nice contract, just not with the A’s.