Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Healthy, Wilson Ramos could be a star and a leader for Rays

Washington Nationals' Wilson Ramos at bat during the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Nationals won 4-0. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Washington Nationals' Wilson Ramos at bat during the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Nationals won 4-0. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In agreeing to a two-year contract with impressive though injured Wilson Ramos, the Rays made a somewhat surprising, definitely risky and potentially rewarding move.

With his surgically repaired right knee checking out fine, Ramos should be officially added to the roster in the hours, or days, after this morning's Rule 5 draft, freeing the Rays to rave openly about filling one of their black hole weaknesses with an elite player.

Speaking with some hypothetical provisos Wednesday, Rays manager Kevin Cash still managed to say enough to get a sense of what Ramos, 29, can bring.

Cash called him "an exciting player," said they "like a lot of things that he's capable of doing" and value "the offensive profile." He noted that catching 100-plus games in back-to-back years puts him "in a special category" and that his experience and success catching Washington's high-end starters makes the Rays "confident that would be a real positive balance for our club."

Assuming Ramos, 29, returns to form when he returns around the All-Star break, the Rays will have 1½ seasons of the best available catcher, and at a bargain price, $18.25 million if he maxes out all incentives in a deal that came together quickly Tuesday night.

Obviously the danger is that Ramos doesn't recover well enough from the ACL and meniscus repairs to be the impact player — dominant hitter and good-enough defender — that allowed him to be a key part, and personality, on some good Nationals teams and ends up a sign of false hope and wasted money.

The upside is that, under Ron Porterfield's crack training staff, Ramos does. That would allow the Rays to benefit from his advanced play in 2017 and '18, when they say they plan to contend, knowing Ramos — who liked the comfort of a two-year deal, the benefit of potential DH at-bats and the assurance of playing time — will be motivated. And, in what truly sounds more like Plan B, they also could come out ahead based on the value of his contributions, and contract, in a trade.

Talking to Nationals staff, it sounds like the Rays are getting much more than just a quality player but a quality guy.

"A heck of a guy," manager Dusty Baker said. "I hated to lose him, but business is business. … You're going to love him."

There seem to be several reasons …

Rather than sulk and bemoan the $50 million-plus his late September knee injury cost him, Ramos has been upbeat, posting videos of his rehab workouts on Twitter. Wednesday he shared initial thoughts on the trade on his @WRamosC3 account: "Working hard to come back strong and contribute to the @RaysBaseball team. Thank you to all the @Nationals fans for your love and support!"

This is a guy who has already dealt with much worse than knee surgery. He survived a 2011 kidnapping at gunpoint from the driveway of his family's home in his native Venezuela then, after 51 hours in captivity, a daring rescue by commandos, who exchanged gunfire with his captors. "I didn't know," he said then, "if I was going to get out of it alive."

He has the nickname "The Buffalo" because of his size — listed at 6-foot-1, 257 pounds — and strength, with D.C. fans even wearing headgear in his honor.

That moniker may come with some karma, too, as Ramos was taken in by the Cheyenne Indians Baker spends time with in Montana. "The buffalo is one of their sacred spirits," Baker said. "And they adopted Big Ramos and they brought him some artifacts and different things when we went to Colorado. That meant a lot."

Also, there is this.

"When healthy, he's as good as anybody," Nats general manager Mike Rizzo said. "And as good a person as I've ever been around."

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Healthy, Wilson Ramos could be a star and a leader for Rays 12/07/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2016 8:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour

    Minors

    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  2. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  3. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE

    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.
  4. Rays journal: Archer has strong outing, with two mistakes

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Two pitches RHP Chris Archer didn't execute are the ones that stood out Thursday as Josh Donaldson hit them out of the park. But the two solo home runs aside, Archer turned in a sterling outing that went atop the pile of good pitching the Rays keep wasting.

    Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) works during the first inning. [Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP]
  5. Tim Tebow continues wowing fans as he wraps up bay area games

    Minors

    CLEARWATER — Tracey Fritzinger has seen Tim Tebow play baseball a few times this year. The 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident went to two of his games against the Tampa Yankees, along with Joy, her little sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow, middle, hangs out in the dugout during Thursday night’s game against the Clearwater Threshers at Spectrum Field, the last of St. Lucie’s eight-day trip to the Tampa Bay area.