Phillies C Wilson Ramos will be a free agent after this season and I want him to be on the Mets in 2019, when he'll still be just 31 years old.
The Mets are set up to again have a dominant starting rotation next year, with or without Jason Vargas. My hunch is no one from the current group will be traded, which means Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and the matured and impressive Zack Wheeler will need a veteran catcher capable of taking charge, instilling confidence and providing stability for them behind the plate.
Travis d'Arnaud is not likely to be back until the middle of next season after having Tommy John surgery this past summer. But, let's be honest, even if d'Arnaud is healthy, there is absolutely no guarantee he'll be able to elevate his game to a level that is needed to help the team contend for a playoff spot. I realize there is no guarantee that anyone will remain healthy and productive, but d'Arnaud's track record indicates he's even less of a guarantee than most. My guess is he gets non-tendered anyway, but that's just a hunch...
As a result, the Fab Four in the rotation have watched the position behind home plate become a game of musical chairs the past two years, rotating between d'Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki, Tomas Nido, Jose Lobaton and Devin Mesoraco, all of whom have combined to do very little with their bat, arm and game calling.
I may be old fashioned, but I still believe championship teams are built on stability and strength up the middle, starting in center field, the middle infielders, the rotation and ending at catcher.
In Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario, the Mets should have two, young middle infielders capable of sparking the batting order, while performing better than average in the field.
The point is, McNeil and Rosario will be out there most every day and every night, allowing the rest of the infield and pitching staff to know what to expect behind them. It would be nice if the Mets could acquire this level stability and strength in center field, instead of using the position as a spot to stash any third outfielder, but I'll leave that to a follow-up post during the offseason.
To complete the line, the Mets need better than Plawecki and Nido, who are the only two in-house options assured of being here next spring.
Ramos, who has spent 8 of his 12 seasons in the National League East, will be the best option at catcher on the free agent market this winter.
Like d'Arnaud, Ramos is no stranger to injury, but that can be said for most catchers. In the last few years, he has dealt with a chronic hamstring issue not to mention a variety of knee pain.
According to the New York Post, team sources said the Mets engaged the Rays in trade talks about Ramos earlier this summer before eventually sending Matt Harvey to the Reds for Mesoraco.
Ramos never expected to be a free agent this winter. It was two years ago that talk in baseball had him destined for a five- to seven-year deal with the Nationals. However, in the final weeks of that season, he tore his ACL and needed surgery. He then settled for a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Rays and now has a second chance at getting a long-term deal..
"I felt at that moment I was losing my career, so right now, I am concentrating on finishing my season healthy, strong, and we'll see what happens after that," Ramos said earlier this week, according to the Post. "I just want to make sure I finish my season strong and go home and after that and then we'll talk."
This season, he started hot and made the All-Star team with the Rays, after which he was traded to the Phillies, with whom he has a 1.008 OPS in 24 games. Overall, he's hitting .314 this season with a .365 OBP, 15 home runs and 67 RBI, while also drawing on-record compliments from his pitchers about his framing, game calling and command behind the plate.
"I like to work with those kind of rotations they have because I feel like I can help with my experience," the Phillies catcher said Monday at Citizens Bank Park. "Every time I am behind the plate, I try to help my guys on the mound. I love when we put zeroes on the scoreboard. That is my priority."
MLB insiders project Ramos to likely end up with anywhere between a two- to four-year deal, likely paying him roughly $8-12 million each season. The third or fourth year could be options, the annual salary could be less depending on games played, but -- the point is -- he isn't getting a one-year contract. And, given what he went through two years ago, he's going to maximize this free agent opportunity to lock in the most money and years he can find.
The Mets should pay him and lock him in to a position they have little to lean on in house. Their starting rotation is too talented and too important to the team's success. And their catcher should be treated the same way, given how he impacts the staff's results.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!