After weeks of speculation around who the Mets would add at catcher, they’ve inked Wilson Ramos to a two-year, $19 million contract, with a team option for 2021. The longtime Met killer (career .302/.330/.491 versus the Mets) is now the stating catcher in Queens for the next two seasons. Let’s break down and grade the move, Brodie Van Wagenen’s second significant free agent addition of the offseson.
Ramos spent 2018 with the Rays and Phillies, where he returned to form after tearing his ACL at the end of the 2016 season and struggling in a half season of action in 2017. He hit .306/.358/.487 with 15 home runs in 416 PA, good for a 131 wRC+, the best mark among all catchers with at least 400 PA. DRC+ (Baseball Prospectus’ new offensive metric, which is more predictive than wRC+) was less bullish, pegging Ramos at 111 DRC+. Still, that was the fifth best mark among catchers, and Ramos accrued 1.7 WARP of value while not playing full time.
On the other side of the ball, Ramos comes with a reputation as a poor defender. While he was indeed terrible behind the plate in 2017, he was one of the better defensive catchers in baseball prior to tearing his ACL, and his metrics rebounded to just about average in 2018. He’ll turn 32 in 2019, and knees are never the same after major ligament damage, making it unlikely he’ll even be an above-average defender again. At the same time, he’s far from a disaster as a receiver.
Arguably the best part of the deal is that the Mets avoided one of the alternatives, that being J.T. Realmuto. The Marlins were reportedly demanding at least one of Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo in any deal for their star catcher. Dealing Nimmo or Conforto would have been an absurd price, and dealing Rosario would have opened a significant hole in the Mets’ infield. Ramos is not the player Realmuto is, but signing him to a very reasonable deal is a much better option than giving up major assets in a trade.
In terms of free agent alternatives, Yasmani Grandal and Martin Maldonado are the other significant options on the market. Maldonado’s name has come up frequently, but he’s arguably not an improvement over the catchers already on the team. Grandal, meanwhile, was looking for a four-year deal, a price the Mets were not willing to meet. If Grandal’s market is limited and he winds up with a three year deal in the $35-$45 million range, the Mets would likely have been better off going with the younger, better, slightly more expensive option. At a four year asking price, however, Ramos is likely the better value signing.
The Mets have added one of the better hitting catchers in baseball, a right-handed bat that will balance and lengthen a very left-handed-heavy team. They’ve done so without compromising drastically on defense, and without trading away one of their best young players. Interestingly, this signing also opens up some trade possibilities, as Kevin Plawecki is now available - perhaps for a left-handed reliever. This move deserves a solid A, pending an update on how the rest of the catching market plays out.