Mets general manager Sandy Alderson surprised everyone and traded for AJ Ramos a couple of days before the trade deadline. He sent prospects Merandy Gonzalez and Ricardo Cespedes to Miami in order to acquire their closer. Addison Reed was still with the team at the time, but this move all but guaranteed Reed’s departure. Ramos is another former closer who could step into the eighth inning role, and he has another year on his contract, whereas Reed is a free agent this offseason.
At the time, it was certainly an intriguing move and one that made sense on paper. The GM clearly saw the bullpen was a cause for concern and he got a jump start on addressing the problem for 2018. Putting the plan into practice, however, did not produce the best results.
Ramos made his debut in a non-save situation in Seattle with the game already out of hand. He did not help matters and gave up a couple of runs which was a less than ideal way to make his debut. With Jeurys Familia on the DL, and after Addison Reed traded, Ramos stepped into the closer’s role for a bit and saved seven games. His one blown save was a memorable one against his former team in Miami. He gave up three runs in the ninth which allowed the Marlins to tie it up in a game they eventually won on a walk-off home run an inning later.
Familia claimed the closer’s role back at the end of the season which means Ramos will most likely be the eighth inning guy going forward. However, when used in the eighth inning compared with the ninth, the results are noticeably different.
It is a small sample size, but Ramos pitched a little over six innings in the eighth in 2017. His ERA ballooned to 8.53 in the eighth compared to 3.31 in the ninth. He walked seven and struck out six in those 6.1 innings of work. For his career the splits between the eighth and ninth innings are far less dramatic but there is still a difference. In 84.1 innings pitched in the eighth his ERA is 3.42 and opponents are batting .223 against him. In the ninth, he owns a 2.49 ERA and opponents are batting just .190 against him.
Overall, Ramos’s career totals are pretty good but walks are clearly an issue. His walks per nine innings is 4.8 and in 2017 it was even higher at 5.2. Ramos explained his control issues could stem from his large middle finger which helps give him the movement he needs on his cutter. The movement on his pitches is also what gives him a high strikeout total. In 2017 his strikeouts per nine innings was a blazing 11.0 and for his career it is 10.5.
Ramos will be due a nice pay increase next year as he enters his third year of arbitration, which will probably cost the Mets around $9 million. The Mets will most likely tender him a contract and have him step into the role Addison Reed held the past two seasons. If he could cut down on the walks and bring the same effectiveness to the eighth as he does in the ninth, then he will be a welcome addition to the bullpen in 2018, albeit a bit of an expensive one.