Boston Red Sox Free Agent Target: Wilson Ramos

The Boston Red Sox have depth at catching, but do they have the offense to match the defense? Wilson Ramos could provide both when and if he is healthy.

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Wilson Ramos, formerly of the Washington Nationals, is certainly damaged goods. The 29-year old right-hand hitting catcher from Venezuela suffered a late season catastrophic knee injury – a torn ACL. Ramos is a free agent and open to negotiations.

The plus for Ramos is he did have a career year with a slash of .307/.354/.496 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI. The offensive production resulted in a Silver Slugger Award for Ramos and an All-Star selection in 2016. Ramos is no slouch behind the dish with a caught stealing percentage of 37% for last season and a career 34%.

The Boston Red Sox have some concern over the offensive capabilities of their catching group. Ryan Hanigan is gone and really never did hit. Sandy Leon was a great story in 2016 but tailed off considerably in the late stages of the pennant push. Leon will never be confused with Johnny Bench with the stick or even Sammy White.

Christian Vazquez returned from his own devastating injury and hit an unproductive .227 in 57 games. Both Vazquez and Leon have the defense that is above average, but the hitting negatives create a potential void at the bottom of the order.

Blake Swihart can hit and has shown that in his brief major league career. Swihart will be in competition for left field in 2017 and appears the favorite providing he can avoid going one on one with walls. Swihart also is considered average at the defensive requirements of the catching job.

Ramos received $5.5 Million in 2016 and will be looking for a long-term deal. The downside is Ramos may not be ready for mid-season and the nature of the injury could certainly impact the physical requirements for catching. This is a risky move if the Red Sox choose to move forward.

In 2015 Ramos hit a meager .229, but did slam 15 home runs and collect 68 RBI. Ramos also fanned 101 times in 475 at-bats. Last season, Ramos had a K% of 17.7 and in this day and age of free swinging that is certainly acceptable. Ramos’ other numbers are among the best among National League catchers including an fWAR or 3.5.

Ramos can hit, catch and should be in the prime years of his career. The downside is the recovery from injury, payroll considerations and if 2016 offensive production was a blip. Do you take a chance?

I would certainly feel out just what kind of deal could be made. The market may be thin for Ramos based on the injury so the potential for a short-term deal that could be explored. The significant negative is the time frame for recovery and if the recovery will be successful.

The key is the Red Sox do have a triumvirate of catchers already in place and that is a strength. Granted, both Leon and Vazquez may not hit, but if the rest of the lineup is stable then the Red Sox can carry a weak bat. Also, Swihart is in the mix. You may give up a bit on defense, but you will get it back on offense.

The probability of signing Ramos is slight since money, risk and what the Red Sox already have in place makes that so. Nonetheless, you never know how the wheels of baseball operations spin. I would place a signing of Ramos in the highly unlikely category.

Sources: Fangraphs

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