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.
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.