Wilson Ramos injury is a giant pain for Rays

Catcher Wilson Ramos Wilson Ramos leads the Rays with 53 RBIs and all regulars with an .832 OPS and a .372 average with runners in scoring position. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Times]
Catcher Wilson Ramos Wilson Ramos leads the Rays with 53 RBIs and all regulars with an .832 OPS and a .372 average with runners in scoring position. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Jul. 16, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — The immediate reaction around the Rays to the extent of catcher Wilson Ramos' hamstring injury is disappointment, everyone knowing how much he was looking forward to playing in Tuesday's All-Star Game in Washington.

But they are likely using more colorful terms in discussing the impact on their long-range plans, as Ramos was among their most valuable trade chips.

Manager Kevin Cash dodged any definitive timetables Sunday morning, allowing only that, "He's going to miss some time.''

If that sounds ominous, it should. There is a real potential that Ramos' absence might end up being measured in weeks, maybe even months.

A trade before the July 31 deadline for nonwaiver deals seems all but out. And the return on any deal, if the Rays can even make one before the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason eligibility, has been reduced significantly.

The Rays have other pieces they can, and likely will, trade, such as starter Nathan Eovaldi, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, relievers Sergio Romo and, maybe, Matt Andriese. And there is the years-ongoing debate on when best to maximize Chris Archer's trade value.

But Ramos was the player they had the highest certainty to get something for, frontline catchers a pretty valuable commodity, even as a two-month rental.

The Nationals' interest in a reunion with Ramos is well known, the Astros are said to be in, and there are likely to be at least a few other teams lurking.

The Rays were going to get something.

Maybe a couple of promising Class-A type prospects, maybe more if the deal was expanded (like, say, to include Eovaldi), or they eat some of the $4.5 million in remaining salary to get better pieces.

Ramos, 31 next month, had proven he had recovered from his devastating 2016 knee injury and, even with some defensive flaws, was back to top form, validated in the popular vote with his election as the American League All-Star starter.

He leads the Rays with 53 RBIs and all regulars with an .832 OPS and a .372 average with runners in scoring position. Plus, he has provided a guiding hand in steering the young pitching staff through the injuries, opener experiment and bullpen shuffling.

But trading Ramos was absolutely the right plan.
As well as the Rays have been playing — Sunday's 11-7 walkoff loss to the Twins sending them into the All-Star break 49-47 — they are too far from making the playoffs to invest in doing so, which keeping Ramos would be.

They woke up Sunday 17 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox and 8½ games and two teams from the second wild-card spot, which only guarantees playing one game, as of now at the Yankees, anyway.

For another, they are going to lose Ramos at the end of the season anyway.

He is headed to free agency and, looking to cash in on the jackpot — "my dream,'' he has called it — he was denied by the right knee injury he sustained with Washington at the end of the 2016 season, in the ballpark of $40 million over three years. (Though making a tidy $15 million from the Rays for these past two years wasn't a bad consolation prize.)

Though the Rays kept Ramos on the active roster Sunday, saying they want to wait until he gets back from D.C. to St. Petersburg for their doctors to see him, he is headed to the disabled list. Hamstring issues aren't always similar, but based on some past cases, he could be out six-eight weeks or even more.

Ramos' injury also highlights, and potentially accelerates, the team's need to find next year's starting catcher. Or at least to take a look at some candidates, rather than just use a bunch of fill-ins.

Maybe that guy comes in one of the pending trades. (Or could have come in a Ramos deal?)

Most likely, the Rays are first just going to find someone — on the waiver wire or in a low-end trade, such as a veteran at Triple A — to step in and share time with Jesus Sucre. They do have Adam Moore, who had some time with the Indians, at Triple A.

Or they could make a bolder move and call up Nick Ciuffo, their most advanced catching prospect, who is strong defensively, swings lefty and is hitting .252 in 28 games at Durham. But there could be a messaging issue there, or at least a question, in rewarding Ciuffo, who was suspended 50 games at the start of the year for drug use (marijuana) and has played only a couple of months at Triple A.

Their position isn't much different than if they traded Ramos in the next two weeks, but at least then they were in control of the situation. Now they have basically five days to figure something out.

The Ramos injury is going to cause them a lot of pain.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.