In a conversation with reporters at the GM Meetings in Arizona on Tuesday, Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo discussed the decision to not extend a 1-year/$17.2M qualifying offer to injured catcher, Wilson Ramos. Ramos, 29, suffered a season-ending knee injury in late September, underwent surgery in mid-October, and is currently in the process of rehabbing his right knee, which he had previously injured back in 2012.
“It’s just difficult to budget for the uncertainty,” Rizzo explained, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo.
“We don’t know how long we’d have him. All the medical reports say he could miss a couple months. So if he does accept the qualifying offer, you’re paying a lot of money for a little bit of performance. That’s what went into it.”
Rizzo did not, however, rule out the possibility of re-signing Ramos, who finished the season, his seventh in the majors, with a .307/.354/.496 line, 25 doubles and 22 home runs in 131 games and 525 plate appearances, over which he was worth a career-high 3.5 fWAR, though the GM did say they would have to get creative.
“The deal would have to fit for us,” Rizzo said. “The risk we would have to incur with a catcher with two knee surgeries, and it would have to work for him as far as if he were be able to play a full season and be Wilson Ramos; he would have to be compensated for that, too. I think there would have to be shared risk if we were to come up with a creative way to sign Wilson. But it’s not to say we can’t come to some kind of agreement.”
If they can’t reach an agreement, Rizzo said he was confident in the catchers (Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino) they have now, though, “obviously if we can [upgrade], we’d be open to do that, too.”
What if Ramos was able to return sooner than expected? MLB’s Jon Morosi wrote on Twitter this morning that Ramos’s agent said he could be ready for the start of the season:
Wilson Ramos expected to be ready for @MLB games by April or May "at the latest," according to agent Scott Pucino. @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 9, 2016
Ramos reportedly turned down a 3-year/$30-$33M offer from the Nationals earlier this summer, and was reportedly still seeking a multi-year deal even after he re-injured his knee, but Jon Heyman, at FanRag.com, wrote on Tuesday that the catcher was willing to accept a shorter deal so he could re-establish his value.
“Ramos wasn’t expecting to receive the $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Nats, as the letter comes with no guarantees and that’s a lot of money for a partial season,” Heyman wrote:
“... but people close to Ramos say that despite reports he is seeking a four-year deal, he is very open to a shorter deal of one or two years to give himself time to reset his value, which was sky high before the unfortunate injury on a slippery field in Washington.”
“While there are probably teams willing to go longer despite the knee surgery (one big plus is that Ramos’ cartilage was said to have been intact),” Heyman added, “he will seriously consider one- and two-year deals that would help him re-establish his huge value after his ACL surgery.”
Ramos admitted late this season that a move to the American League might be in his future after he once again injured his knee. Will the Nationals risk even a shorter-term deal with Ramos knowing the alternatives (Severino and Lobaton) on the roster are a young, unproven catcher and a career backup, respectively?
Will the Nationals, who clearly expect to once again compete for a postseason berth, have to sign or acquire an everyday backstop?