Does Mike Montgomery Make Cesar Ramos Expendable?
By Drew Jenkins
Cesar Ramos has been a decent contributor to the Tampa Bay Rays, posting a 3.76 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, and a 7.2 K/9 over 146 relief appearances and 8 starts over parts of four seasons. Most importantly, he has the ability to go multiple innings in the event of a short start, and he also has the ability to start himself. But with Mike Montgomery having a resurgent season at Triple-A, could Ramos be expendable at this year’s trade deadline?
Once a top-30 prospect in baseball, Montgomery hadn’t put up an ERA lower than 4.72 since 2010 heading into this season. Simply put, he never made the strides that would have turned his lower-level performance into upper-level dominance. His fastball command never got any better, his velocity slipped, and his curveball never became more than a show me pitch. His plus changeup was never enough for him to move forward. But this year, his command and curveball have made serious strides to lead to Montgomery’s breakout year. Overall, Montgomery has a 3.63 ERA, 7.4 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 96.2 Triple-A innings in 2014. Those numbers were even better before he gave up 5 runs in just 1.1 innings in his most recent start.
With many teams, Montgomery might have a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter with the progress he has made. However, the Rays are full of starting pitching depth, and thus Montgomery seems destined for the bullpen. The good news is that such a move could do wonders for him. Any remaining fastball command issues would be masked, and he would likely be able to dial the pitch up to the mid-90’s. His fastball-changeup combination would look great in shorter stints, and he would not have to rely much on his curveball, still the worst of the three pitches. Montgomery’s repertoire could translate to late-innings work eventually, but as long as he is stretched out, he could work multiple innings or even make the occasional spot start. Montgomery can contribute to the Rays’ bullpen, and he has the ability to make an impact in the near future.
With Montgomery knocking on the big league door, Cesar Ramos could suddenly become expendable. Given Montgomery’s track record as a starter, he would have no problem slotting into the long relief role that Ramos has occupied. His stuff would outmatch Ramos’ in shorter roles, and he would also provide more versatility than Ramos has. At the very least, there wouldn’t be any drop-off between Ramos and Montgomery, and Montgomery has more upside. Both are also left-handed, so there would be no trade-off there either. Then, to top it all off, Montgomery would be somewhat cheaper, making the big league minimum through at least 2017 while Ramos will see a raise on his $750,000 salary via arbitration. The Rays would lose a little starting depth, but with their loaded Durham rotation featuring several options, that concern would be easily outweighed by the potential benefits.
As far as value, Cesar Ramos wouldn’t receive a huge return in a trade given the fact he is a reliever without the stuff to throw in the late innings. However, he has been an effective bullpen arm in the AL East that is capable of throwing multiple innings, plus teams can also look back to his solid work as a starter and see that he could be capable of more. With that in mind, Ramos has the ability to bring back a prospect of same value in a trade, or he could be used to sweeten a deal involving David Price, Ben Zobrist, or any other of the Rays trade candidates. At this point in time, Cesar Ramos is unnecessary on the Rays roster, but he can help another team and there would be some interest if he was made available.
The presence of Mike Montgomery means that we could see Cesar Ramos changing hands in the next few days. The Rays won’t give up depth unless they get a good return for Ramos, but the combination of his talent and the Rays’ ability to replace him make him another trade candidate to watch as the deadline approaches.