Tampa Bay Rays: Is the Wilson Ramos Signing a Mistake

Aug 1, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 1, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Rays signing of Ramos is a short-term fix and could be a mistake, here’s why it makes no sense.

On Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays have made official the signing of Wilson Ramos. Ramos will receive a guaranteed $12.5 million dollar contract with a possible $5.75 in incentives. That sounds like a bargain price for an All-Star catcher who brings a lot of offense to the table. However, a look behind the numbers shows that the signing is a short term gamble and may be a big time mistake.

When healthy, Ramos is a very talented and expensive catcher. He is arguably one of the top five along with such names as Buster Posey, Yadier Molina and Salvador Perez. If healthy he would have commanded at least a $75 million contract in free agency this year. He earlier turned down a three year $30 million deal from the Washington Nationals in 2016.

The only problem is that he is nowhere near healthy. In September of this past season, he suffered a season ending tear of the ACL and the Meniscus of the knee. It will potentially sideline him until approximately June of 2017.

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In addition, when he returns, he will only be able to DH for an undetermined amount of time. These are the short term issues.

The longer term issue involves whether Ramos will hold up behind the plate. A regular catcher spends over a 1000 innings in a season crouched behind the plate and that can’t be good for a surgically repaired knee.

Beyond the subject of his health, Ramos’ acquisition does not solve the Tampa Bay Rays long term need at catcher. If he comes back in the latter part of next season, the Rays will get a little more than a season of play from Ramos.

A successful and healthy 2018 season will put him back in the free agent pool and he will be in line for a six figure multiyear contract. So, unless the Tampa Bay Rays figure they have a real shot at winning it all in 2018, a $12-18 million dollar deal does not make sense.

If the Rays had a hot shot catcher at Triple-A this deal might make more sense, However, the Tampa Bay Rays will be looking at a Luke Maile and Curt Casali catching duo behind the plate for much of 2017 and no better answer to succeed Ramos in 2019.

If that doesn’t worry you enough, the only prospect currently on the horizon is No. 25 prospect, Nick Ciuffo who will probably begin the season at advance Single-A.  Justin O’Conner, once a No. 3 draft choice and highly regarded prospect, was just designated for assignment after seven year of injuries and under-performance.

There were other ways in which they could have solved the catching issue for less money. Welington Castillo is still on the market at less money than Ramos and he is healthy. The Phillies still have a stable of young, inexpensive catchers that could be available in a trade.

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The Tampa Bay Rays can make a case that Ramos is worth the money for his bat alone. In 2016, he delivered a .307/.354/.496 slash line. That would make sense if they had the catcher position filled and they got a full two years out of Ramos.

As it stands now they have neither a front line catcher nor left fielder/DH for the first half of next season and they have committed $4 million of their thin budget.

All of this is a very typical Ray’s deal. They find a wounded player with upside, underpay him in terms of market value and hope they get a season or two out of him. Sometimes this pays off and sometime it doesn’t.

In the mean time, they fail to address the core issue and another year of young talented pitching is wasted. They need to trade young players where they have a surplus for young players where they have a weakness and stop trying to plug the holes on the cheap.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Ramos Deal is Official, DFA O’Conner

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In the end, Ramos is simply gaming the system. He is going to use the Rays as a rehab project while collecting $12 million. He will then go on to bigger and better things. The Rays should not be suckered into these traps.