After chasing a trade for the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto and considering free agent Yasmani Grandal, two of the best catchers in baseball, the Mets decided Sunday afternoon on Wilson Ramos, agreeing to terms with the free agent pending a physical, sources confirmed.
The deal is for two years and $19 million, according to multiple reports. A team option for 2021 could bring it to $27.5 million over three years.
Ramos solves the Mets’ catching question. Although general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has talked up the incumbents, Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud, the club was active on the catcher market, and Ramos, when healthy, is an upgrade over the Mets’ internal options.
Splitting 2018 between the Rays and Phillies, he hit .306 with a .358 on-base percentage, a .487 slugging percentage, 15 homers and 70 RBIs and was an All-Star for the second time.
That’s Ramos’ upside. The downside is his lengthy injury history. He missed time in 2018 with a left hamstring strain and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee at the end of the 2016 season. From 2012-14, he had a variety of injuries, including several hamstring strains.
In parts of nine major-league seasons with the Twins, Nationals, Rays and Phillies, Ramos, 31, has a .273/.317/.439 slash line. He also has a reputation as a strong defender, albeit not at the Grandal/Realmuto level.
Ramos’ ability to control the running game, a problem for the Mets in general and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in particular last season, should benefit his new team. In his career, Ramos has thrown out 32 percent of would-be base-stealers (the league average is 28 percent). Plawecki (23 percent) and Devin Mesoraco (24 percent) had issues in that area in 2018.
With Ramos, either Plawecki or d’Arnaud becomes expendable, though it’s possible the Mets will carry three catchers.
Plawecki had a .210/.315/.370 slash line in 79 games in 2018.
D’Arnaud played in only four games before a torn ulnar collateral ligament required Tommy John surgery. The Mets expect him to be ready for Opening Day. After tendering d’Arnaud a contract for 2019, Van Wagenen mentioned the possibility that he will see time at other positions.
“Travis gives us additional versatility and flexibility because he’s got the athleticism to play leftfield, he’s got the motivation to play third base and first base,” he said recently. “I think we view that as a unique situation from a catcher in particular.”
As much as the Mets like Realmuto, they didn’t want to meet the Marlins’ asking price, which was either Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo or Amed Rosario, plus prospects. And Grandal, as strong as his track record is offensively and defensively, is expected to receive a larger contract than Ramos.
The Mets still seek an outfielder (likely a centerfielder, having talked to A.J. Pollock and Adam Jones), a lefthanded reliever and bench/rotation depth.
Van Wagenen has been productive. In about two weeks, he has brought in Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Jeurys Familia and Ramos for less than $20 million added to the 2019 payroll.
Wilson Ramos has swung a dangerous bat during his nine-year career, but staying on the field has been problematic.