Wilson Ramos is in his first year as a Met, having signed a two-year, $19MM contract with the club last offseason. Amidst a disappointing few months in Queens, Ramos acknowledged the possibility this might be his only season in orange and blue. “If they make a decision to trade me, you know, it’s happened before in my career, so it’s not going to surprise me,” Ramos told Newsday’s Kenny DeJohn.
As DeJohn notes, Ramos has seen his playing time dwindle in recent weeks. Ostensibly brought in to be New York’s top backstop, Ramos has started just five of their last nine games, ceding playing time to 25-year-old teammate Tomas Nido. This doesn’t seem to be indicative of any health concerns, as Ramos tells DeJohn he’s surprised at his downtick in playing time.
Indeed, Ramos’ comments are especially noteworthy coming on the heels of reports Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have developed a better rapport with Nido than with the veteran slugger. A glance at the respective catchers’ defensive metrics might offer an explanation. Baseball Prospectus tabs Nido as a slightly above-average pitch framer and ball blocker, in accord with his strong defensive reputation as a prospect. Ramos, meanwhile, rates near the bottom of the league in both categories. (In fairness to Ramos, he rated as an average defender between 2017-2018, so it’s possible there’s room for improvement).
Regardless of one’s opinion on pitch-framing metrics, that the Mets’ top hitting catcher hasn’t gelled with the club’s top two arms is obviously suboptimal. Ramos did catch deGrom Friday night for the first time in nearly a month, but Syndergaard has been paired with Nido in each of his two starts since the fireballer returned from the IL last week. The Mets, amidst organizational chaos, seem likely to sell off short-term assets anyway, and Ramos’ reported disconnect with the team’s top arms could make a change of scenery best for everyone involved.
Despite his defensive shortcomings, it’s not hard to see Ramos piquing some interest on the trade market, although any prospect return will be marginal and will require the Mets pay down some of the deal. His .275/.350/.413 line, while down from his career-best hitting in 2018, is still plenty formidable for a catcher. Ramos’ 105 wRC+ ranks ninth among catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. Even with midseason catcher trades being difficult to pull off, Ramos’ 121 wRC+ since the start of 2017 will interest some contenders.
Speculatively speaking, an AL club who can rotate Ramos through catcher, first base and DH to keep him healthy and creatively work his bat into the lineup might make the most sense, but it’s not hard to see an NL team viewing Ramos as a sufficient offensive boon to live with mediocre glovework behind the plate. The A’s, Rangers, Rockies and Pirates all remain on the fringes of contention despite lackluster production from their backstops. Texas, in particular, has set itself up to be a modest buyer with its surprising 47-42 record, and GM Jon Daniels noted last month that any acquisition would likely be under team control for 2020, as Ramos is. Pairing Ramos with Jeff Mathis, a gifted defender whose bat has cratered to unplayable levels, could give Texas a much-needed jolt behind the dish.
Regardless of Ramos’ ultimate destination, the Mets’ decision to pursue him last offseason, while understandable at the time, hasn’t gone as planned. While far from the team’s biggest blunder in their series of aggressive moves, the Mets may be left footing some of the bill for their veteran backstop to move elsewhere over the next few weeks.