- Prior to tearing his ACL, Wilson Ramos was aiming at a $100MM contract in free agency. It’s an eye-popping number, as Joe Mauer ($184MM from the Twins) and Buster Posey ($167MM) are the only catchers to crack the nine-figure threshold. Both of those deals were extensions rather than free agent contracts, and both Mauer and Posey had more consistent track records than Ramos. It’s quite common for a player and his representatives to aim high with an initial asking price, of course, especially when that player is the top free agent at his position. Injury notwithstanding, Ramos is still expected to receive significant interest, to the point that he is still looking for four or five years on the open market.
- The Mets will indeed tender a contract to first baseman Lucas Duda. MLBTR projects Duda to earn $6.7MM in arbitration this winter, following a rough year that saw Duda spend much of the season on the DL due to a stress fracture in his lower back. He hit just .229/.302/.412 with seven homers over 172 PA in 2016, though given the first baseman’s strong production in previous seasons, the Mets are surely counting on a bounce-back next year when Duda is healthy.
- “Nothing’s close” on a reunion between the Mets and Bartolo Colon, though the team has interest in bringing the veteran back and “no one would be surprised” if the two sides work out another contract.
- “It would be an upset” if the Diamondbacks hire anyone other than Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo as their new manager, Heyman writes. Lovullo has been widely connected to the Arizona job from virtually the moment former Boston GM Mike Hazen took over as the D’Backs’ new general manager. Hazen does plan to interview between 5-7 candidates as part of a managerial search, and as of last Tuesday, the D’Backs hadn’t yet asked the Sox for permission to speak with Lovullo.
- One executive suggests Dexter Fowler should accept the Cubs’ qualifying offer, though Heyman believes the center fielder can top the one-year, $17.2MM offer in free agency. I agree with Heyman; while the QO limited Fowler’s market last winter, his outstanding season for the NL champions should easily net him a nice multi-year deal this offseason.
- Assuming Fowler leaves, Heyman notes that the Cubs face an “interesting” outfield situation with Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward all best suited to playing the corners. It should be noted that Chicago faced a similar scenario last winter prior to Fowler’s unexpected return, as the Cubs had Schwarber and Jorge Soler lined up for the corner outfield spots and Heyward was going to play center. Heyward has posted excellent defensive metrics over his brief (404 innings) time as a center fielder during his career, though since Heyward is arguably the best defensive right fielder in the game, any lessening of his value could be a problem given how badly Heyward fell off at the plate this year. The versatile Zobrist is now locked into outfield duty with Javier Baez’s emergence at second while Soler and Albert Almora are also in the outfield mix, so the Cubs are fully stocked with outfield options.
- The Blue Jays have parted ways with scout Ed Lynch. Best known as the Cubs’ GM from 1994 to 2000, Lynch had been working as a scout for the Jays since 2010.
Nats GM Mike Rizzo spoke with the press today about the offseason to come, as Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com reports. He expressed satisfaction with the “good, steady brand of baseball” that the club displayed, while acknowledging the disappointment of failing to advance in the playoffs. Rizzo wasn’t keen to offer up much in the way of details on the team’s planning, but did provide some insight. Here are the highlights from his press conference and a few more notes on the team:
- Rizzo praised his roster’s versatility, suggesting that it allows “a lot of different directions to improve our ballclub.” Trea Turner, in particular, could occupy a middle infield role or play in center — leaving the Nats free to pursue a center fielder, shortstop, or perhaps even a corner outfielder (while moving Bryce Harper to center). As Rizzo put it, Turner’s presence “allows us to build around that, meaning that it gives us more options in the marketplace to improve the ballclub.”
- One thing that won’t occur is a permanent move of Turner to second base, with Daniel Murphy taking over for Ryan Zimmerman at first. “No, Zim’s our first baseman going into this offseason and spring training,” Rizzo said. The veteran struggled to a .218/.272/.370 batting line this year, by far his worst as a big leaguer, but he made plenty of hard contact (34.7%) and may have been unfortunate to carry a .248 BABIP.
- The Nats have some notable free agents, of course, including catcher Wilson Ramos and closer Mark Melancon. Rizzo wouldn’t commit to a strategy on the burly backstop, whose season ended with ACL surgery. The plan is to “do all the due diligence on the medicals” before making a call on issuing Ramos a qualifying offer and deciding whether to pursue him.
- As for Melancon, Rizzo offered effusive praise for his work on the mound and presence in the clubhouse. Looking ahead, though, Rizzo suggested that he isn’t locked into Melancon or the other top relief options on the market. “It’s a broad, deep reliever market this year, and Mark is one of the elite relievers in the marketplace,” he said. “In a perfect world, you’d always like to have a guy that’s done it in the most competitive situations, but that’s not always possible. We’ve got a lot of options as far as guys with plus stuff and plus makeup, and it’s a deep relief market this year. So there’s different avenues to go and different routes that are attractive to us.” One possible internal candidate for ninth-inning duties, righty Shawn Kelley, is expected to be fully healthy after leaving the team’s final game with what looked to be a concerning injury, though it seems fair to expect the organization to pursue a closer regardless.
- The Nationals’ decision to ink Cuban outfielder Yadiel Hernandez was somewhat uncharacteristic, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post explores. Washington has largely sat out the market for Cuban players, but chose to take a limited risk ($200K bonus without promising a MLB roster spot) on the 29-year-old. Hernandez was worth the risk, per VP of international ops Johnny DiPuglia, because “he’s a legit left-handed hitter who grinds at-bats” and is capable of playing center field. Depending upon how the offseason progresses, Hernandez could conceivably position himself as a depth or even a bench piece, though the team hasn’t staked much on that possibility. “We thought we’d take a chance on him,” said DiPuglia. “He’s got a profile for us. We’ll find out.”
- One reason to add Hernandez? The fact that the team has an expensive decision to make on left-handed-hitting center fielder Ben Revere, who projects to earn $6.3MM in arbitration even after a dreadful campaign. Zuckerman looks at Revere’s 2016 season and the options for the Nats. From my perspective, there’s no real chance that the team will trust Revere with the regular job in center, making it hard to imagine that it will stake over $6MM on him. That’s especially true given the presence of Brian Goodwin, a former top prospect who made strides at Triple-A and showed well in his first taste of the majors.
Wilson Ramos’ free agent stock took a sizable hit the moment he suffered a torn ACL on Sept. 26, but the catcher’s agent, Wil Polidor, tells Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post that Ramos still plans to seek a four- or five-year contract in free agency.
As Castillo writes, the Nationals aren’t likely to extend a qualifying offer to Ramos on the heels of his injury, and if that’s the case, his chances at securing a multi-year pact would certainly be enhanced. While some may consider the notion of a multi-year deal following Ramos’ ACL tear unrealistic, it’s also possible that there are teams that will consider this an opportunity to acquire a premium catcher at a bargain rate. Most clubs won’t want to make any type of sizable one-year commitment with Ramos potentially sidelined for a notable portion of the 2017 campaign, but the idea of offering a backloaded multi-year deal certainly has some merit. After all, prior to his knee injury, Ramos had positioned himself to target something in the vicinity of the five-year, $80-85MM deals recently signed by Brian McCann and Russell Martin. To teams interested in adding a catcher on a long-term deal, the notion of securing Ramos on a four-year deal at a lower annual rate probably holds some appeal, even if the return on investment is minimal in year one of the pact.
Of course, any long-term deal with Ramos does come with considerable risk. This is the second time that he’s torn the ACL in his right knee, and for a catcher that is listed at 6’1″ and 255 pounds, a pair of significant knee injuries to go along with his massive frame is a genuine cause for concern. Indeed, Ramos himself has already hinted at the fact that it may be beneficial for him to sign with an American League club, implying that the availability of a DH slot could be critical for him.
Polidor also tells Castillo that Ramos is set to undergo a four-week evaluation of his knee that will conclude in the second week of November, which lines up with the General Managers’ Meetings in Phoenix, Ariz. (not to be confused with December’s Winter Meetings in Washington D.C.). Upon completion of that evaluation, he’ll have a clearer timetable from his doctors. At last check, Ramos was slated for a seven-month rehab process, which would put him on target to wrap up around mid-May. Of course, that timeline also likely represents a best-case scenario, and even if Ramos achieves that ambitious goal, he’ll still need to be eased back into catching on a regular basis.
When healthy this season, Ramos was outstanding. In 523 plate appearances, the 28-year-old batted .307/.354/.496 with a career-high 22 home runs. He also caught 37 percent of opposing base-stealers — 10 percent better than the league average — and drew strong pitch-framing marks from Baseball Prospectus. Ramos ranked fifth on the final edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, although that list was published prior to his knee injury.
The Mets not only gave former quarterback Tim Tebow a $100K bonus, but handed him a cherished spot in the Arizona Fall League, and ESPN.com’s Keith Law argues (Insider link) that both were mistakes. Tebow, 29, lacks the baseline skill of his fellow entrants in the prospect-heavy offseason competition, Law opines after taking an in-person look. The prospect guru panned Tebow’s contact ability at the plate and his instincts in the field, and took no prisoners in assessing the totality of the situation: it was, in Law’s words, “a craven, mercenary move befitting an independent-league team desperate for the added revenue from ticket sales, not something a major league team with postseason aspirations should be doing.”
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins sat down with Ken Davidoff of the New York Post this spring, talking through the season to come with the understanding that their comments wouldn’t be published until year end. At the time, none of the challenges that sprung up during the 2016 campaign were really evident, but both leaders noted the variability inherent in the game and acknowledged that the health of the rotation and lineup could never really be assured.
- Outgoing Nationals free agent Wilson Ramos had successful surgery today to repair ACL and meniscus tears in his right knee, as the team announced and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag first reported. Estimates of his recovery timeline are ranging between six and eight months — which would obviously push into the early or middle portion of the 2017 season. Given that uncertainty, but also Ramos’s young age (he just turned 29) and top-level production (.307/.354/.496 batting line, 22 home runs in 2016), his free agent case will be among the more interesting in recent memory.
- The Nationals not only suffered yet another heartbreaking NLDS exit last night, but also watched key reliever Shawn Kelley leave with what looked to be a potentially significant arm injury. He said after the game that he lost feeling in his hand after throwing his final pitch, but there seems to be hope that a major problem has been averted, as MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Kelley suggested that he hopes “it’s just a nerve thing,” explaining that he experienced worsening numbness rather than suffering an acute injury. Kelley is owed $11MM over the next two years and just wrapped up an excellent 2.64 ERA showing in 2016, with 12.4 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 over 58 frames. Needless to say, he’s an important part of the Nats’ relief corps, and the organization already will likely be hunting for a big pen arm with mid-season closer acquisition Mark Melancon hitting free agency.
- Newly-inked Braves third base coach Ron Washington thought at one point he’d land the team’s managerial job, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports. “I thought my interview was good to the point I got that I had the [managerial] job, no doubt in my mind,” Washington said. “But you never know what the other side is thinking and how it will go. They offered me a different job in the organization.” Though he missed on the top post, and could’ve earned the same money on a two-year deal to stay with the Athletics in a coaching capacity, Washington chose to take a position that would put him closer to home.
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, who’s set to hit the open market in a few weeks’ time, will undergo surgery on Friday to repair both the ACL and meniscus in his right knee, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson tweets. Ramos says that he expects roughly a seven-month rehab timeline.
The procedure itself was a foregone conclusion, of course, but these details do add a bit more information to the overall picture. Adding the meniscus work probably isn’t a major issue; if anything, perhaps it’s good news that other, more structurally significant ligaments were not impacted.
In terms of timeline, it seems fairly safe to assume that seven months is on the optimistic side. That would put Ramos back in action by mid-May, assuming all proceeds well, though that probably doesn’t mean he’ll be throwing on the catching gear in a major league park at that point.
While he’ll probably be able to begin some limited baseball activities as the knee gains strength, and will certainly be able to do weight work, Ramos will need to rebuild his conditioning even after he’s cleared. And he’ll also need to work back to game speed in all departments. Ramos himself has suggested that he may need to spend some time in a DH role in order to get back to the field as soon as possible.
All said, seven months sounds like a fairly promising timeline — especially since this is the second time that Ramos has undergone ACL surgery to that knee. It remains largely uncertain what kind of market interest he’ll receive this winter. Contending teams may be hesitant to rely on him at all behind the plate in 2017, while others may be interested in a long-term investment in hopes of finding a nice value. Ramos’s own risk tolerance and personal preferences will obviously play a major role as well. All told, his ultimate free agent contract is as difficult to predict as any in recent memory.
The Nationals and Wilson Ramos suffered a crushing injury earlier this week when Ramos tore his ACL — an unfortunate incident that will obviously prevent him from playing in the postseason and may severely hamper his free-agent stock this winter. The full extent of his injury won’t be known until he goes under the knife, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted earlier this morning that it’s believed there could be damage to Ramos’ meniscus as well, which certainly wouldn’t make rehab any easier.
Ramos is thinking of the team first, he told reporters, including MASNsports.com’s Byron Kerr (via an interpreter), explaining how difficult it will be if his injury and rehab needs force him to watch the postseason from home rather than alongside his teammates. Manager Dusty Baker said he’s hopeful that Ramos can at least be available to stay with the team during the playoffs so that he can provide leadership and instill some wisdom and scouting reports into backstops Pedro Severino and Jose Lobaton in October.
From a personal standpoint, Ramos said he hopes to remain with the Nationals but conceded that he’s not sure he’ll be able to play with a National League club next season — seemingly implying that his knee injury may require some days as a designated hitter, at least in his first year back: “Unfortunately, this injury happened so close to the end and it may affect whether I’m able to stay with a National League team or not, but if it’s up to me, I definitely would like to keep playing for the Nationals and play as long as I can.”
Ramos was previously a lock to receive and reject a qualifying offer in search of what we at MLBTR were projecting to be a five-year contract, though his untimely injury certainly reduces the likelihood of that scenario and probably eliminates it altogether. It’s difficult to know exactly where to peg Ramos’ free agent stock until we have a timeline for his recovery, and that won’t be known until after his surgery takes place. As MLBTR’s Jason Martinez observed, Yasmani Grandal underwent surgery in July 2013 to repair both his ACL and MCL but was ready for a full Spring Training and the Opening Day roster in 2014. Ramos’ injury, of course, is not only different but is potentially more difficult to rehab, as he’s older and this is the second time he’s torn his right ACL in his career.
If Ramos is able to make it back for a significant portion of the 2017 campaign and an American League club proves to be the best fit based on his medical evaluation, then there should be no shortage of teams on the lookout for a catcher this winter. The Angels, Astros, White Sox, Twins, Orioles and Rays could all use upgrades behind the dish (though a catcher with knee problems may wish to avoid running on the turf at Tropicana Field, and even at a reduced price, Ramos may prove too costly for Tampa Bay).
SEPT. 29: Surgery will reveal the full extent of Ramos’ knee injury, but it’s possible there are also some tears in his meniscus, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
SEPT. 27: Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has received the devastating news that he has again torn his right ACL, manager Dusty Baker told reporters (via CSN Mid-Atlantic, on Twitter). Ramos previously suffered that injury — which isn’t exactly typical for a catcher — back in 2012.
With just a week left in the regular season, and the division already locked up, the Nationals now face a void at the catching position entering the postseason. Ramos’s huge season — a .307/.354/.496 slash with 22 home runs over 523 plate appearances — was among the factors that helped drive the Nats’ success this year after both player and team disappointed in 2015.
Of course, the injury also casts a massive shadow over Ramos’s upcoming free agency. It had seemed all but certain that he’d receive and decline a qualifying offer, then enter the market in search of four or five years at over $10MM per season. Instead, in all likelihood, he’ll now likely be looking for an entirely different sort of contract.
Washington had reportedly just taken a crack at extending Ramos, though the team’s reported offer (something a bit north of three years and $30MM) didn’t seem all that likely to result in a deal. As I noted in that post, Ramos had already taken on basically all of the risk of performance and injury decline, reducing his incentive to sell his future seasons at a discount. But the relatively meager odds didn’t prevent the catastrophic injury, which is all the more concerning given that Ramos has already had that ligament replaced.
The Nats will go with Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino for now, and will simply have to make do with that pair for the playoffs. It’s now certain that the organization will need to replace Ramos after the season — there would seem to be little chance that he’ll be ready for the start of 2017 — though it could also sign a gap-filler and explore some kind of multi-year arrangement to keep him around for the future.
Just how things will play out remains unknown, with Ramos’s anticipated timeline still yet to be determined. The repeat nature of the surgery likely increases the uncertainty surrounding his recovery, and the situation as a whole only adds to concerns about how the large-bodied receiver would age, particularly with the litany of leg injuries he has suffered.
On the positive side, “the Buffalo” — as he is affectionately and appropriately known — just turned 29 in early August, so he’s still rather youthful. He has already proved capable of working back from an ACL tear, and has held up to an immense amount of abuse before this hard-luck injury, appearing in 259 games since the start of 2015.
All said, it’s extremely disappointing to see such misfortune for a universally respected player who has already been through so much. Hope remains that he’ll be able to return to being a productive big league receiver, but it won’t be in 2016.
The injury also creates some added opportunity for other catchers on the free agent market, such as Matt Wieters and Jason Castro, who may see their demand increase. And it could shift the trade winds, potentially enhancing the Yankees’ bargaining position with veteran Brian McCann and adding to the appeal of struggling Padres receiver Derek Norris.
Orioles closer Zach Britton has turned in a season to remember, and it’s not all that surprising given his recent excellence. Still, it wasn’t long ago that such a showing seemed highly improbable, as Danny Knobler of Bleacher Report writes. Britton was no lock to make the O’s roster out of camp in 2014, but the refinement of his unbelievable power sinker that year has turned the southpaw into arguably the game’s most dominant reliever. Knobler takes an interesting look at Britton’s transformation as a pitcher, as well as his earlier path toward the majors.
Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:
- Nationals star Bryce Harper suffered a thumb injury that caused some concern, but manager Dusty Baker said tonight that X-rays were negative, as Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com reports (Twitter links). Washington is suddenly facing a variety of significant health concerns as it readies for the NLDS, though at least in Harper’s case the prognosis seems promising. Catcher Wilson Ramos is a new concern after leaving tonight’s game following a play at the plate. He’s due for an MRI tomorrow, the results of which could have huge implications for both the team and his coming run through free agency.
- Burgeoning Astros infielder Alex Bregman could be back sooner than expected after a “leap forward” in his recovery from a hamstring strain, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. Indeed, he could appear as soon as this week. While the timetable isn’t quite as promising for righty Lance McCullers Jr., he might be ready to go for the postseason if Houston can sneak in. Meanwhile, there’s said to be little chance that outfielder Colby Rasmus will return to uniform before qualifying for free agency.
- It’s possible that Red Sox deadline addition Fernando Abad won’t even crack the team’s postseason roster, as Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports. The veteran southpaw has largely been quite good against opposing lefties since coming to Boston, but he has still coughed nine earned runs with a dozen strikeouts and eight walks in his 12 2/3 innings of work. Though nothing has been decided, manager John Farrell did acknowledge that the club is assessing both Abad and rookie lefty Robby Scott for the postseason pen. Scott, 27, has just six MLB appearances on his ledger, though he has yet to allow a run.
The Nationals are holding their collective breath after seeing Wilson Ramos land awkwardly on a play at the plate. The big catcher was helped off of the field with an apparent right leg injury.
It’s far too soon to know whether the injury is a serious one, but it comes at an awful time for player and team. Washington is preparing for a postseason run in early October, while Ramos is not only playing to help the team but also to set up his free agent market after the year.
Washington is not particularly well-equipped to deal with any missed time from Ramos, who has carried a big load this year. Switch-hitting reserve Jose Lobaton has taken just 104 plate appearances, with a decent but unexciting .220/.317/.363 slash. Intriguing prospect Pedro Severino has shown well in his 11 game stint, but his Triple-A numbers don’t suggest that he’s ready for a regular role.
Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Ramos has already logged 130 games for the Nats entering tonight’s action. He has been nothing short of outstanding, finally realizing his talent fully. In 520 plate appearances, Ramos owns a .307/.354/.497 slash with 22 long balls.
That output has Ramos primed to hit the open market with a chance to take his pick from a wide variety of suitors. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently ranked him fifth in earning power among pending free agents, with Ramos standing out as the top catcher available.
8:46am: The team’s offer was for “a bit more” than the three-year, $30MM figure that Heyman suggests, per Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post (via Twitter).
While Ramos has stated that he would invite a chance to re-up with the team, but evidently the preliminary offer was not enough to get things going. Washington opened the bidding at around three years and $30MM, per Heyman.
That does indeed sound like rather a low amount, though it would be right in line with what the Pirates promised Francisco Cervelli earlier this year to keep him from reaching the open market. Of course, that pact took place before much of the season had occurred, meaning that Cervelli was avoiding the risk of an injury or a performance downturn harming his stock — which, it turns out, is just what happened.
Ramos, by comparison, has already absorbed most of the risk, boosting his own earning power substantially with a huge season. As I recently examined, the 29-year-old has a strong case for a five-year deal at a rather lofty average annual value. Many teams are hunting for a backstop, and Ramos now stands out rather clearly as the top available free agent at that position. Though his offensive production has dipped somewhat of late, the overall output (.303/.352/.491, 21 home runs) remains immense for his position.
It’s not clear whether talks will be revisited at some point before Ramos qualifies for free agency, but Heyman calls that a “long shot.” That’s not terribly surprising, as both sides are surely focused on the task at hand with the postseason beckoning. We have seen late-breaking, pre-free-agency extensions — the Giants’ pact with Hunter Pence stands out — so that possibility can’t be ruled out entirely. On the other hand, the Nats have previously moved on from core players like Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond when new contract discussions were not fruitful.