NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Rays made a surprising strike to land a potential major impact player, agreeing late Tuesday on a two-year deal with All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos, who will be sidelined until midseason while recovering from major right knee surgery.
The deal, for a guaranteed $12.5 million with another $5.75 million in incentives, is pending a physical and won't be finalized for a few days.
Ramos, 29, is not expected to play in the majors until June or July as the former National had surgery Oct. 14 to repair his anterior cruciate ligament plus medial and lateral meniscus. It was the second ACL surgery on his right knee, the first being in 2012.
Ramos, 29, could initially work his way back with some DH at-bats, but the Rays expect him to be back behind the plate this season, filling one of their biggest needs with an elite-level player. They could still add a lesser veteran to share time with Curt Casali or Luke Maile until Ramos is ready.
Wilson was having a breakout season in Washington until being injured Sept. 26, hitting .307 with 22 home runs, 80 RBIs and an .850 OPS and earning an All-Star selection then a Silver Slugger award. LASIK eye surgery before the season was considered a big reason for his success.
In parts of six previous seasons with the Twins and Nationals, Ramos hit .258 with 61 homers, 241 RBIs and a .711 OPS.
Ramos is considered a solid defensive catcher overall with a strong arm, though his receiving and pitch-framing skills are described as average at best.
The deal could turn out to be quite a coup for the Rays. Ramos would have been the top catcher on the free-agent market and in line for a five-year, $80 million deal.
Instead he will make a $4 million salary with the Rays in 2017 and $8.5 million in 2018, plus the potential incentives on things such as plate appearances and games played. He will, however, be a free agent for 2019 at age 31 and could still land a big deal.
In August, he turned down a three-year, $30 million extension from the Nats, expecting to land a more lucrative deal in free agency.
Ramos was injured on a play at the plate when he jumped for a throw and landed awkwardly on a rainy night at Nationals Park. He was originally signed by the Twins out of his native Venezuela and traded to the Nationals in a July 2010 deal for reliever Matt Capps.