Wilson Ramos Rumors
The Blue Jays' decision to fire hitting coach Chad Mottola yesterday made him a curious scapegoat for the team's 2013 failures, opines Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Davidi points out that Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie (who hit .283/.346/.417 in the second half) all made positive strides under Mottola, who was in his first season as a Major League coach. Here's more on the Blue Jays...
- Sergio Santos' contract no longer looks as team-friendly as it once did, but the Blue Jays aren't missing Nestor Molina, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Molina has struggled with the White Sox since being sent to Chicago in exchange for Santos, and Santos' final two months were healthy and dominant. Santos tells Nicholson-Smith that his goal for 2014 is to stay healthy, which will be a key if he's to have any chance at seeing his $6MM option exercised.
- Starting pitching is still the team's top priority this offseason, but an upgrade at catcher has leapfrogged left field for the team's No. 2 priority, writes MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm in his latest Blue Jays Inbox. Chisolm notes that the free agent market will be expensive and competitive and adds that the Jays are interested in Wilson Ramos of the Nationals, though he would be an expensive trade target himself (in terms of prospects). Still, Chisolm writes that GM Alex Anthopoulos "seems determined" to make an upgrade behind the dish.
- Anthony Gose could slot into the fourth outfielder role that will open up with Rajai Davis' departure, but Chisolm notes that he's also one of the team's top trade chips. Gose could also move into a starting role should a starting outfielder be traded.
- The Blue Jays felt that Emilio Bonifacio couldn't handle playing the infield on the turf at the Rogers' Centre due to his poor footwork and limited range, writes Chisholm, which is why they essentially gave him to the Royals. He'd have been non-tendered this winter, Chisholm adds.
- Chisolm also addresses the free agent market, noting that the Jays aren't likely to break their policy of limiting free agent deals to five years this offseason and aren't likely to pursue a Roy Halladay reunion as they need more certainty in a starting pitching acquisition.
Adam Kilgore has plenty on the Nationals' recent trades of David DeJesus and Kurt Suzuki in an article for The Washington Post. According to Kilgore, GM Mike Rizzo anticipated from the beginning that he would be able to acquire a prospect for DeJesus after putting in a claim on the outfielder. “Whenever you can net a good, young 22-year-old controllable guy, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Rizzo said, referring to one of two pitching prospects that the Nats will receive from the Rays in exchange for DeJesus. "It’s acquiring assets. That’s really the reason you utilize your positioning on the waiver wire." Earlier this evening, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports heard from a few executives who wondered aloud if the claim might have been a mistake by the Nats. Here's some more Saturday night NL East links...
- The Nats “most definitely” plan to try to sign DeJesus this offseason if the Rays decline his $6MM option for 2014, Rizzo says. The GM essentially told DeJesus so when they spoke Friday morning, according to Kilgore.
- Trading Suzuki to the A's is a suggestion of the confidence the Nats have in catcher Wilson Ramos moving forward, Kilgore says. “[Ramos] wants to be that guy who plays each and every game," Rizzo said. "We thought it was a good opportunity for us to forego four weeks or so of Suzuki and get ourselves a prospect out of it.” MLBTR's Jeff Todd profiled Ramos as an extension candidate earlier this evening.
- Rizzo will require a significant package of talent in any trade for Dan Haren, who has a 2.16 ERA in 50 innings since returning from the DL and will become a free agent after the season. Haren is owed approximately $2.63MM for the remainder of the season.
- GM Ruben Amaro Jr. faces the unenviable task of rebuilding the Phillies' bullpen this offseason, Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer says, calling the club's relief corps one of baseball's worst. Gelb suggests that a "total re-evaluation of the team's scouting methods and developmental strategy" may be necessary, but says he expects Amaro to again pursue veteran relievers in free agency after the season's end. Pitching coach Rich Dubee, whose contract expires at the end of the season, isn't likely to remain with the club in 2014, Gelb adds.
- Amaro may look to bolster the Phillies' statistics department, according to an article by Tyler Kepner of The New York Times. “We may be looking to fortify some of our information with some more statistical analysis," Amaro said. "I’m not so stubborn that we can’t try to do things a little bit different, or think that we can’t make better decisions." However, scouting and player development will remain the Phils' focus, Amaro added.
The Nationals' 2013 season has hardly gone the way the team hoped and expected. Some of the contributing causes -- Ryan Zimmerman's throwing issues; the underwhelming performances of newcomers Denard Span and Rafael Soriano; Danny Espinosa's collapse at the plate -- remain concerns going forward. Wilson Ramos's missed time, however, is a factor that promises to turn in the Nats' favor next year. With Ramos set to enter his first year of arbitration eligibility, could this be an opportune time for the Nationals to lock him down for the future?
Ramos's importance to the club is undeniable. While he recovered from ACL surgery and battled a hamstring injury, the recently-departed Kurt Suzuki handled the Nats' primary catching duties. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference grade Suzuki right around replacement level over his 79 games and 281 plate appearances in 2013. Meanwhile, in just 47 games and 181 plate appearances, Ramos has been worth about a win and a half over replacement level (1.2 fWAR; 1.8 rWAR). His .289/.320/.480 triple-slash is good for a 120 wRC+ -- 11th among catchers with at least 150 plate appearances. Certainly, Washington would have loved to play Ramos for a full season in 2013. Having dealt Suzuki, the team seems poised to do just that next year.
Looking ahead, Ramos seems a good bet to continue to perform. Only recently turning 26, he has a career .273/.330/.443 line over 794 big league plate appearances, well above average for a catcher. Though his defensive performance has had its ups and downs, the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell recently composed an interesting argument that Ramos has consistently enhanced the performances of the Nats' pitchers through his presence behind the dish.
Of course, Ramos is one of several young Nationals who could warrant long-term commitments, even before considering headline stars Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. MLBTR recently looked at the two primary candidates, with Steve Adams profiling the extension possibilities for starter Jordan Zimmermann back in May and Tim Dierkes exploring the case for shortstop Ian Desmond in April. With the price only rising on those two players as they get closer to free agency and continue to perform at a high level, Ramos could represent an even better value proposition for the team.
Previous first-time arbitration-eligible extensions for established backstops are somewhat sparse, but there are a few potential comparables. Suzuki, for instance, signed a four-year, $16.25MM deal before the 2010 season after two solid platform years. The contract bought out his arbitration eligibility at an average of $4.95MM per season, and included a $8.5MM team option season (as well as a vesting component). More recently, coming off of a strong 2011 offensive campaign, Nick Hundley inked a three-year pact that guaranteed the Padres backstop $9MM over three arbitration-eligible seasons and included a $5MM team option for his first free agent year. (Carlos Ruiz and Chris Iannetta both received similarly-valued, three-year deals.)
By depressing his statistical accumulation, Ramos's injury history will reduce the price he might expect to command through arbitration -- and, presumably, the price of an extension. Notably, while Suzuki had logged about 600 plate appearances in the two years before he reached arbitration eligibility, Hundley only managed about 300 plate appearances in his three pre-arb seasons. Ramos, on the other hand, has logged less than 300 total plate appearances since his 113-game rookie campaign.
If the Nats could structure a deal along the lines of the Hundley contract, the team could reasonably expect to achieve significant excess value. For his part, Ramos could well be motivated to seek guaranteed money; he has never earned more than league minimum, has experienced significant injuries, and already faces prospective arbitration earnings that likely understate his true value. And Ramos is represented by an agency, SFX, that has worked out several recent extensions for its clients.
Of course, Ramos's injury history could also be cause for some hesitation on the part of the team. While his ACL tear was something of a fluke, he has followed that up with two long DL stints for hamstring strains this season. Both Ramos and the Nats seem confident in his durability, however, with manager Davey Johnson calling him "a horse." Nationals GM and president Mike Rizzo, meanwhile, has made clear that he views Ramos as a long-term solution behind the dish.
It will be interesting to see whether Rizzo will seek to turn that expectation into a commitment in the coming months, especially with other extension candidates on the docket. Either way, after paying Suzuki $6.45MM for replacement-level play this year, the Nationals should expect to see a substantially better return on investment behind the dish in 2014.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images/Rick Osentoski.
With Spring Training in full swing, wonderful stories from present and past are always emerging. Take Rays starter Chris Archer, who is not just fighting for a spot on Tampa Bay’s opening-day roster, but is on a quest for self-discovery. (As told by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.) Or today's matchup between former and current Padres workhorses Jake Peavy and Clayton Richard, who were traded for one another back at the 2009 trade deadline. (Courtesy of Corey Brock of MLB.com.) Or, going back further still, recall Roberto Clemente, whose presence was felt strongly in Fort Myers, FL during his playing days and lives on vividly today. (From David Dorsey of News-Press.com.) On to some National League notes ...
- While there was never a question who would cover the right-field grass for Pittsburgh when Clemente was roaming Forbes Field, the team must find someone to man that role in 2013. Jose Tabata has shown hustle and power this spring that have exceeded the Pirates' expectations, Tom Singer of MLB.com writes. Still just 24 years old, Tabata’s strong showing thus far has only further complicated Pittsburgh’s right field situation. As Singer explains, in addition to Tabata and trade-deadline acquisition Travis Snider (who the team hopes will lay claim to the position), the Pirates are considering options like Clint Robinson, Jerry Sands, Alex Presley, Garrett Jones, Felix Pie, Darren Ford, and Brad Hawpe.
- Also making a surprising impression in Pirates camp is right-handed reliever Brooks Brown, who Singer says has emerged as an unexpected favorite to earn a spot in the Bucs' bullpen. Brown was selected by Arizona in the first round back in 2006, but has yet to make a big league appearance.
- Another darkhorse bullpen candidate who appears to be making strong moves towards a roster spot is the Nationals' Fernando Abad. As reported by The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, with fellow left-handed relievers Bill Bray, Will Ohman, and Brandon Mann being sent to minor league camp, the 27-year-old minor-league-invitee Abad now stands as the most likely candidate to round out the Washington bullpen should the Nationals decide to keep another lefty alongside Zach Duke. (Ohman was apparently cut during today's game, just after his poor outing, according to Mark Townsend of Yahoo.)
- The Nationals also welcomed back catcher Wilson Ramos, who made his first appearance in a game since tearing his ACL early in the 2012 season, reports James Wagner of The Washington Post. Ramos will likely split time with Kurt Suzuki as soon as he is able to catch regularly.
- With Rafael Furcal being shut down indefinitely after a setback in his recovery from the elbow injury he suffered late last season, the Cardinals are planning what GM John Mozeliak is calling “an open competition” at shortstop, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. After emerging last season when Furcal went down, Pete Kozma will battle with veteran Ronny Cedeno for the starting job out of camp.
- The Dodgers' outstanding young starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, says that he is not thinking about whether or not he can top the Felix Hernandez contract, Tracy Ringolsby or MLB.com writes. Kershaw explains that he'll "play the game the same way" regardless of salary because "it's the best job you could have. ... I talk to my buddies all the time. They are putting on suits and ties, and going to the office every day. I put on a uniform and play a game."
Congratulations to the Braves, who clinched a postseason berth with a win over the Marlins last night. Though Atlanta still has a shot at the NL East title, they're more likely to play the National League's second Wild Card team in a one-game playoff once the regular season ends. Here are some links from the NL East...
- Trading for Gio Gonzalez and bringing back Davey Johnson were some of the most important moves the Nationals made last offseason, GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson. Rizzo called Wilson Ramos Washington’s “catcher of the future,” but made it clear that the Nationals will have lots of playing time for Kurt Suzuki next year.
- Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen “blew his second chance” with Miami and doesn’t deserve another one in the opinion of FOX Sports writer Jon Paul Morosi. The Marlins stuck with the outspoken manager after his comments about Fidel Castro in April, but there are rumblings that his job is no longer secure.
- Someone like Nick Swisher could be “the ideal offensive fit” for the Phillies’ lineup, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News writes.
- MLBTR's Mark Polishuk previewed a possible extension for Kris Medlen earlier today.
A late-night snack for those of you with a hunger for news on baseball's two Eastern divisions:
- Even after his kidnapping, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos plans to begin playing for the Aragua Tigres on Wednesday of this week, tweets Mark Zuckerman of CSNwashington.com.
- FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Red Sox will conduct a second interview with Dale Sveum and least one other candidate in their search for a new manager.
- While the organization doesn't sound like they're considering the idea, CSNbaltimore's Rich Dubroff wonders if the Orioles should entertain the thought of trading Adam Jones. Dubroff quotes one rival scout who thinks they should hang onto the 26-year-old center fielder, saying: "If they're willing to move him, they're stupid."
Wilson Ramos has been rescued from his abductors, reports Rafael Rojas Cremonesi. Venezuela's Information Minister tweeted that Ramos was found by authorities (passed on by Cremonesi), and the Ramos family has already been contacted with the good news.
Ramos was kidnapped near his home in Venezuela by four armed gunmen on Wednesday. The kidnappers didn't contact the Ramos family but did contact police, and it was confirmed yesterday that Ramos was alive.
THURSDAY: Ramos is alive, according to multiple reports, including this one from Rafael Rojas Cremonesi (on Twitter).
WEDNESDAY: Wilson Ramos' Venezuelan Winter League team, the Aragua Tigers, confirmed on Twitter that the Nationals catcher has been kidnapped. Four gunmen approached the 24-year-old near his home and took him away, according to El Nacional. The kidnappers have not yet contacted the family, but they were in touch with the police. Hopefully Ramos has a safe and speedy recovery.
- The Twins appear to be having second thoughts about the trade that sent Wilson Ramos to Washington for Matt Capps. Ramos is playing well and Joe Mauer has spent much of the season on the disabled list.
- It wouldn’t surprise people if J.D. Drew and Roy Oswalt retire after the season, according to Heyman. Oswalt and the Phillies have a mutual option for 2012 and Drew is a free agent after the season.
- Jose Reyes’ remarkable play has essentially forced the Mets to make him “a respectable offer.” The prospective free agent has been one of the best players in the game so far this season.
- Mets right-hander Matt Harvey and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper are too good for Class A, according to Heyman. Harvey has a 2.49 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 and Harper has 14 home runs and a .342/.436/.619 line.
Some news from the Twins, as they wrap up a four-game series in Baltimore tonight...
- The Twins may eventually regret dealing Wilson Ramos to the Nationals for Matt Capps last summer, but Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post writes that Minnesota appreciates the depth that Capps has provided at closer with Joe Nathan struggling.
- Should the Twins consider moving Joe Mauer to another position? MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince argues no, since Mauer's full value comes from the fact that he can deliver MVP-caliber numbers from the premium position of catcher. Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune argues yes, since the rigors of catching every day may already be taking a toll on Mauer's hitting. "Would you rather have Mauer serving as a pretty-good-hitting catcher who needs plenty of days off and occasional trips to the disabled list, or a great-hitting corner position player who plays 160 games a year? I'll take the latter," Souhan says.