The Rays placed catcher Wilson Ramos on the disabled list due to a hamstring strain today, as has been expected. However, while some might’ve hoped that Ramos would be able to return to action prior to the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31, that won’t be the case, it seems. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Ramos is likely to miss “extended time” and is expected to be on the disabled list beyond July 31.
Clearly, the injury is a significant blow for the Rays. Ramos, 30, had seemingly made a full recovery from the ACL tear that he suffered in September 2016 — an injury that likely robbed him of a quite lucrative multi-year pact. Instead of landing a four- or five-year deal in free agency that offseason, Ramos settled for a modest two-year deal with Tampa Bay that was loaded with incentives. While he missed about half of the 2017 season, he’d come back as a force in 2018.
Through 315 plate appearances this season, Ramos has posted a terrific .297/.346/.488 slash with 14 home runs and 14 doubles. He’s struggled a bit in terms of preventing the running game (22 percent caught-stealing rate) and has posted roughly average framing marks, per Baseball Prospectus. But while he may not be a premium defender, he’s been an elite bat relative to other catchers throughout the league and is playing the 2018 campaign on a reasonable $10.75MM salary.
With teams like the Nationals and Astros at least exploring the market for catching upgrades, the Rays were a near-certainty to cash in on Ramos and land a new prospect or two to add to their minor league ranks. That now looks unlikely — at least in the month of July. It’s possible that Ramos could return at some point in August, though it’s doubtful that he’d clear waivers. Still, that doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of a deal coming together.
The Rays can pass Ramos through revocable waivers so long as he’s spent at least the minimum time required on the disabled list (which will be the case by default) and so long as he is healthy and able to play at his accustomed level. In other words, he’d be eligible to run through waivers around the time he’s able to go on a minor league rehab assignment.
While a division rival would quite likely block the Astros from a chance to acquire Ramos via revocable trade waivers next month, it’s not impossible that a fringe contender in need of catching help could take a chance on Ramos. Specifically (and, to be clear, quite speculatively), if the Twins manage to pull within four to five games in the AL Central and opt not to sell off major assets, they’d be a natural landing spot for Ramos in an August swap. The Mariners, too, could be a fit given Mike Zunino’s struggles to get on base so far.
That’s just a pair of speculative scenarios, of course. Alternatively, other clubs who don’t especially need Ramos may be wary of placing a blocking-style claim on an impending Rays free agent with a fairly notable salary, as the possibility exists that the ever-cost-conscious Rays could simply opt to let him go.