Phillies Catch an Upgrade in Wilson Ramos

Weeks ago, Wilson Ramos appeared to be the ideal trade target for the catching-deficient Nationals given his previous experience with the team (2010-16) and their current Replacement-Level Killer-esque production, but a funny thing happened on the way to Washington, DC. A left hamstring strain forced Ramos to bow out from the All-Star Game, the Nationals continued their descent into disarray, and now the Rays have traded the nearly 31-year-old backstop to the Phillies in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Ramos, who also missed the first 76 games of last season due to a torn ACL, has been doing catching drills and is likely to begin a rehab assignment soon. He’s enjoyed a strong season at the plate, hitting .297/.346/.488 with 14 homers in 315 PA, good for a career-best 130 wRC+. That’s a significant upgrade over what the Phillies have gotten from the 25-year-old Jorge Alfaro (.254/.305/.398, 85 wRC+) or 26-year-old Andrew Knapp (.223/.318/.372, 87 wRC+) on the offensive side, no small matter for a team whose 92 wRC+ ranks 10th in the NL.

Assuming that Ramos replaces Knapp in some kind of pairing with Alfaro, who has started 70 of the Phillies’ 106 games behind the plate, this looks like a defensive upgrade, as well. Via the version of Defensive Runs Saved that doesn’t include pitch framing, Ramos has been average this year, Alfaro two runs below average, and Knapp five below average, while via the framing-inclusive version, the numbers are -1, 0, and -10 runs, respectively. According to Baseball Prospectus’ numbers, Ramos has been 0.9 runs below average overall but dead even on framing, not as good as Alfaro (7.4 runs above average overall, 8.5 above average via framing) but significantly better than Knapp (-5.7 runs overall, -4.3 via framing), who’s gotten about half as much playing time.

As for the return to Tampa Bay, obviously, there’s no scouting report to offer on PTBNL. Ramos’s $10.5 million salary made him the highest-paid Ray, but as with Denard Span earlier this year and Evan Longoria and David Price previously, that title is always a temporary one. Like the mortality rates among those crowned the oldest living human, there’s no mystery about the turnover.

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Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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Slappytheclown
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Slappytheclown

What an odd trade. I’d say it was a 2018 draftee but…the phillies only had Bohm in the 1st round which seems expensive and then a 4th rounder which seems cheap. Could it be an international signee? Or they just came in late and gave the Rays a choice of 3-4 players to choose from after the Rays scout them because…the Rays hadn’t scouted the Phillies minor league system??

DBA455
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DBA455

So who will now be the 2nd-highest paid Ray (after Kiermaier)?

An Arb2 CJ Cron at ~$3M?

SupPham
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SupPham

Right now highest paid Ray is Hechavarria at 5.9M who’s prob DFA’d within the next couple weeks… Then it’s KK making just over 5.5M (8M next year) followed by Carlos Gomez at 4M to conclude a strange top three salary allocation

DBA455
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DBA455

I should have been more clear: I meant for 2019.

Hechavarria is a FA at year-end, as is Gomez.

With Archer, Span, and Colome gone, I think every player on the 40 man (ex KK, who signed and extension through 2022) is either pre-arb or in their arbitration years.

IE, their salary obligations next year are ~$8M to Kiermaier, $2M to Longoria (!), and then … nothing. Except MLB minimums and arbitration settlements.

It’s absolutely fascinating to me. I’d love to see someone here write this up.

Could the Rays contend for a WC2 with a <$50M payroll?

SupPham
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SupPham

My bad, thought you were referring to current payroll.

But yes, you are spot on for 2019. KK will be the only one who isn’t arb or pre-arb in 2019, if the roster stayed how it is.

Even weirder, only Sucre (and Vidal Nuno if he hangs around) is entering his 3rd year of arbitration. Cron and Duffy are the only ones entering it for the second time.

Legit possibility for a really good roster on a minuscule payroll in 2019