There weren’t many positive to take away from the final two months of the Philadelphia Phillies 2018 season. One of the few bright spots was catcher Wilson Ramos, who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the non-waiver trade deadline as the Phillies attempted to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011. That, as we now know, didn’t come close to happening. But it wasn’t because of Ramos, who despite dealing with a variety of nagging injuries, slashed .337/.396/.483 with 10 walks and 17 RBIs in 33 games with the Phillies.
Given a less-than-stellar health history and that he celebrated his 31st birthday shortly before making his Phillies debut, there was some thought that the Phillies may be able to retain Ramos on a bargain type deal for 2019. Free-agency has been open for less than a week, but it’s not looking like Ramos returning to Philadelphia is especially likely.
According to Maria Torres of The Los Angeles Times, the Angels have interest in Ramos. So too do four unnamed teams. While it’s possible the Phillies are one of the five interested teams, they don’t feel like the best match for Ramos at this point.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projects that Ramos will land a three-year/$36 million free-agent contract. If that’s the case, it’s difficult to imagine the Phillies being a serious suitor. From here, that feels a bit optimistic given Ramos’ history of injuries and age, but even if he ultimately signs a one or two season deal, the Phillies probably aren’t his best landing spot. First of all, the Phillies would probably like Jorge Alfaro to play at least a few times a week to continue his development. Secondly, the DH isn’t an option in the National League. With the Phillies ample corner infield options, it would be almost impossible to fit both Alfaro and Ramos into the lineup together even once a week. Ramos could also benefit from DHing once in a while just to avoid the physical toll that playing catcher has on you.
Matt Klentak’s front-office may not be married to Alfaro behind the plate moving forward. It was Ruben Amaro Jr.’s front office that acquired Alfaro from the Texas Rangers as one of the key pieces in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade. While he has a world-class arm and has noticeably improved his pitch framing, he still had 11 errors and 10 passed balls in 2018. Offensively, he looks to have the potential to be an elite power hitter for the catching position, but he hit just 10 home runs in 2018. Phillies color commentator and Wall of Famer John Kruk would regularly point out on telecasts that Alfaro’s over-swinging at the plate prevents him from reaching his full potential. Instead of being an elite offensive catcher in 2018, Alfaro struck out in over 36 percent of his plate appearances, while walking just 18 times.
Still just 25, Alfaro is likely to be the Phillies primary catcher in 2019. But with no guarantee that he ever fulfills his high ceiling (offensively or defensively), he’s not untouchable. However, if the Phillies were to move him, it would have to be for an already-elite catcher. For example, Alfaro would likely have to be included in any trade for Miami Marlins All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki reported earlier this week that the Phillies are likely to touch base with the Marlins regarding Realmuto this offseason, though it’s unclear how serious the Phillies would be if a bidding-war emerged for one of the league’s most productive catchers.
If Alfaro is the Phillies starting catcher in 2019, general manager Matt Klentak may choose to bring in another backup option that isn’t Andrew Knapp. While Knapp’s month of June – where he hit .297 with two home runs – is probably indicative of him being a better offensive player than he showed for much of the 2018 season, he had eight errors and six passed balls in less than 400 innings behind the plate. Free-agent options like Nick Hundley or former Phillie A.J. Ellis could fit the bill of backup catching improvements.
But if Alfaro is going to have any sort of noteworthy role with the Phillies in 2019 (which he presumably will), expecting Ramos to return looks increasingly unrealistic.
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