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April 20, 2019

New Met Wilson Ramos on catching Cy Young winners, returning to the NL East and what he provides at the plate

December 19, 2018

Wilson Ramos will be right at home calling a game for a pitcher like Jacob deGrom.

The Mets ace may be coming off a 2018 season in which he won a CY Young, but for the veteran catcher, that is, well, nothing new. Ramos, who the Mets signed to a two-year contract with an option for a third this week, has caught two other Cy Young winners, actually helping guide Blake Snell to the American League Cy Young in the first half of last season.

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“It’s really good to be behind the plate when those guys are on the mound,” said Ramos, who also caught three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer when he was with the Nationals. “They know what they want to do. They concentrate. Before the game, we have good meetings, talk about what we want to do that day. We ought to be on the same page.”

That’s the veteran presence the Mets have been looking for behind the plate for years. Attempting to build a team around a rotation of hard-throwing starters for the past few years, they have wanted to add a catcher whose experience can help their starters with holding runners on, game-calling and planning.

Wilson Ramos joins the Mets on a two-year deal and will be expected to deliver both at the plate and behind it. (Seth Wenig / AP)

Ramos brings the experience, particularly in the National League East, where the Mets are trying to claw their way out of the bottom half of the division.

“He told us he wanted to play in the NL East,” Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said when introducing Ramos. “He wanted to get some revenge.”

Ramos made it to the big leagues with the Twins, but established himself as a good-hitting major league catcher with a strong arm during his seven years with the Nationals.

Ramos, who was dealt to the Phillies at the end of July last year, was glad this signing keeps him in his NL East comfort zone.

“I am so happy. I know this league really well. … I got very good experience behind the plate,” Ramos said. “I can use that to help my pitching staff be better and better.”

It was also in the NL East where Ramos’ long journey with injuries began.

In 2012, he tore the ACL in his right knee and missed most of the season. After being sidelined for most of 2013 with a hamstring injury, Ramos battled back to re-establish himself as one of the best in the game in 2015-16. In his walk year with the Nationals, 2016, he hit a career high .307 with a personal-best 22 homers and 80 RBI in a career-high 131 games.

But in September of that season, Ramos re-tore the ACL in his right knee. He missed the first half of 2017 after the Rays signed him to a two-year deal, but looked like a good gamble last season, at least with the bat. He hit .306 with 15 homers and 70 RBI in 111 games between the Phillies and Rays. He missed games after the All-Star break because of another hamstring injury.

Wilson Ramos' defensive metrics might be declining, but his experience should be a big boost to the Mets pitching staff.
Wilson Ramos’ defensive metrics might be declining, but his experience should be a big boost to the Mets pitching staff. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

“When he’s healthy, he’s a good hitter,” said an AL scout. “He’s a good bat for that division and that lineup. Defensively, he is still a decent catcher, he’s a smart catcher, but the years behind the plate are taking a toll.

“It all depends on if he stays healthy.”

Behind the plate, however, Ramos’ defensive metrics have declined. Scouts say his ability to frame pitches has worsened over the past few years and, at age 31 with a history of lower-body injuries, his arm may still be strong, but his pop-time (the time between receiving a pitch and getting the ball down to second) has slowed. Ramos, who threw out 44% of runners trying to steal against him in 2015, nabbed just 14 of 48 or 29% of runners trying to steal on him last season.

Still, it’s an improvement on what the Mets have had. Their batteries last season allowed a National League worst 134 stolen bases last season, throwing out just 36 or 27%.

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While he has also had a strong history of blocking balls, Ramos allowed eight passed balls in 794.1 innings behind the plate last year.

The Mets, however, when they met with Ramos last week in Las Vegas put him at ease that they were not concerned about his declining defense. The native of Venezuela, who was the victim of a terrifying kidnapping in his native country back in 2011, however, is very well aware they he got his deal, which is worth a maximum of $26 million with options and incentives, mostly because of his bat.

“That made me feel happy and comfortable, because they know what I can do with my bat,” Ramos said. “It made me feel excited.”

But he takes his responsibility to pitchers seriously and is looking forward to meeting them in Port St. Lucie in February when pitchers and catchers report on February 12.

“In spring training you can try to get on the same page, make your relationships, that’s what I am trying to do every year during spring training,” Ramos said. “We have new faces every year. A lot of new arms every single year, so I try to be on the same page and have good communications.”

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