The New York Mets went into the offseason knowing the catcher position was an area in which they needed to drastically improve in order to contend. On Sunday they addressed their need with the signing of 31-year-old Wilson Ramos.
The deal for 2 years and $19 million (club option for 2021) was a bargain in comparison to the other options involved considering that Ramos was one of the two best free agent catchers on the market.
Ramos slashed .306/.358/.487 last year with 15 home runs in 416 plate appearances. Last year he also set a career high in BABIP at .353. As a catcher, he’s not much of a threat defensively, though he was pretty close to average in 2018. Ramos has thrown out 31.6% of base stealers in his career and 29.2% last year. He’s not a great pitch framer on a team built around pitching which doesn’t seem like a logistical fit. Anything above average defensively can’t be expected from him at this point in his career.
The Mets met with Ramos and his agent at the Winter Meetings and were said to be very impressed with him. According to Jon Heyman, the Mets were Ramos’ first choice this offseason.
Previously, Wilson Ramos was a Met killer. For his career, he’s hit .302/.330/.491 against the Metropolitans. Now he will be catching for them and playing in a division he already knows very well, having played for both the Nationals and Phillies.
Throughout the course of the Winter Meetings and up until this week the Mets had been in talks about possibly trading for Marlins All-star catcher, J.T. Realmuto. Although they pursued many trade possibilities, the Mets were eventually deterred by the Marlins steep request for multiple Major League pieces and looked elsewhere. Names such as Conforto, Nimmo, and Rosario were raised as centerpieces. There were also murmurs of a three-team swap involving the Yankees and Noah Syndergaard. In fact, it was reported just days ago that the Marlins even proposed a one-for-one trade involving Syndergaard and Realmuto which was shot down by the Mets.
Let’s be honest, as good as Realmuto is, two years of control is not worth three years of Thor. The Mets love Realmuto and really wanted to make that trade work, but despite all of their creativity, they were not able to pull off a trade. Good news for them; they kept their young starters and signed Ramos to a 2- year deal, a contract that will expire as Realmuto becomes a free agent in 2021.
Brodie Van Wagenen had been adamant about his philosophy this offseason that he did not want to create new holes in the lineup by filling other ones. This would indicate that they are only willing to trade from excess and with prospects at this point. A Realmuto trade would have opened up a hole or two in the Mets lineup that would have needed to be filled anyway. It did not make sense to fill the catcher position and open another spot up.
The Mets were also looking at other options such as Yasmani Grandal and Martin Maldonado. Grandal didn’t seem to make as much sense as Ramos because he was looking for a longer guaranteed contract of four years and had a Compensation pick and $500K international slot money attached to him. His cost would have been far greater than that of Ramos’.
Maldonado would have made some sense, being a defense-oriented catcher with a pitching staff as good as the Mets’. Although, the downfall was that he wasn’t much of an upgrade offensively from the catchers they already have, so it made more sense to steer in Ramos’ direction.
This move didn’t go without some uncertainty. Ramos has had his share of injuries in the past. That’s been something the Mets have always taken into account during their player acquisition decisions. They’ve had a recent history of injury-plagued seasons. Ramos’ most recent injury was a hamstring strain that hampered him at the end of last season. He played through some of it but for much of the second half, he was barely able to run around the bases.
This acquisition signals the reorganization of the pecking order among Mets catchers. Travis d’Arnaud, who has spent time on the DL in five consecutive seasons is expected to be the backup. He is coming off of Tommy John surgery. That leaves Kevin Plawecki as the likely odd man out of New York’s catching mix. Plawecki could now be a possible trade chip for a left-handed reliever. The Mets also have further depth in the minor leagues with Tomás Nido, should Ramos or d’Arnaud get hurt.
All in all, this was the correct move by the Mets. They were able to significantly upgrade at the catcher position at a reasonable cost. They didn’t have to give up their prospects or everyday players. They didn’t have to overspend or extend a mid-size contract. They got the best offensive option on the market. He’s a right-handed power bat which they needed to even out a very left-handed group (Nimmo, Canó, Conforto, McNeil).
The Mets’ offseason moves have a lot of fans excited for the upcoming year. This is shaping up to be the Mets’ best-fielded team since the ’06-’08 seasons. Just yesterday, new GM Brodie Van Wagenen admitted, “internally we would argue we’re the favorites in the division right now.” It’s a tough division but he is not without justification for an argument. It will be interesting to see how Van Wagenen rounds out the offseason in the next couple of months.
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My name is Sam Starosciak and I am a recent graduate of Arizona State University majoring in Business Data Analytics.