Tampa Bay Rays: Solving the Catcher Mystery for 2019
By Michael Emdeyar
Every season, it seems like the catching position poses questions for the Tampa Bay Rays. Are things more settled heading into the off season? Or, is there more work to do?
As we turn the calendar to September, there’s reason to believe that the Rays have secured the catching position for a few years. Rookie Michael Perez, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks last month, has been a welcome surprise. Trading Wilson Ramos has not hurt nearly as much with Perez behind the plate. And Jesus Sucre keeps doing what he does. But, is this really problem solved?
Option 1: Keep it the way it is with Perez and Sucre
Since playing his first game with the Tampa Bay Rays on July 26, Michael Perez has played quality baseball. In 80 plate appearances, he’s hitting .284. And, behind the plate, he’s been nearly perfect, committing no errors and allowing no passed balls while throwing out 29% of stolen base attempts.
Add to that, he has a veteran mentor in Jesus Sucre along with several catching coaches (and manager) behind him. There is definitely an argument to be made to keep things the way they are heading into the 2019 season. The Rays are playing better than they have at any point this season and it would be difficult to improve on what they have going.
Option 2: Wilson Ramos is a free agent and loved Tampa Bay. What about him?
The Tampa Bay Rays don’t look to be big players in the off season. They really don’t have a lot of roster questions looming. What if their big splash this off season is to bring back a familiar face?
No, I’m not suggesting they go back to the Ramos/Sucre days. I’m wondering what everyone would think of bringing back the Buffalo to share time with Perez and serve as an occasional designated hitter. After all, his performance this season earned him the starting catching position in this season’s All-Star Game. Unfortunately, the injury bug crept up again and kept him from playing.
Bringing Ramos back and coupling him with Michael Perez would add a power bat to the roster. I don’t see the Rays bringing back CJ Cron despite his power numbers this season. First base is not a position of need for the Rays. Jake Bauers would seem planted at the position, but players like Nathaniel Lowe will be breathing down his neck.
Option 3: Go off the grid and try something new altogether.
Not likely. The free agent market for catchers is, in my opinion, pretty dismal. After you review a list that includes the likes of Matt Wieters, Yasmani Grandal and ex-Ray Robinson Chirinos, it’s hard to conclude that there are better options elsewhere.
Similarly, there’s really not anything in Durham that would cause the Rays to change course. The only option there would be Nick Ciuffo, but I don’t think he’s the answer. In the short time Michael Perez has been around, he would seem to be the better option than Ciuffo. Other options, like Montgomery Biscuits backstop Brett Sullivan and, further away, Bowling Green catcher Ronaldo Hernandez is pretty much all there is.
My opinion: Status Quo
In the end, I’d like to see the Rays keep things the way they are. I admit, toying with the idea of bringing back Wilson Ramos is intriguing to me. But, as I mentioned before, the free agent market for catchers is pretty limited this year. Ramos may be in for a bigger salary than could even be considered. Great for the Buffalo. But, not something the Rays need to be involved with.