After making what clearly was a surprise move to lease the services of an American League All-Star, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak Tuesday cast his club’s trade for Wilson Ramos as even more of an odd acquisition at the non-waiver deadline.
While Ramos clearly upgrades the Phillies’ offensive offerings from behind the plate — he’s hitting .297 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs and was an AL All-Star representative from Tampa Bay this summer — questions remain about whether he’ll even be available to help this team compete down the stretch.
Ramos has been on the disabled list with a strained hamstring that Klentak, despite the usual optimistic vocabulary, painted in a murky light after the trade was completed.
“I would say at this point, our best estimate — the best-case scenario — would have Wilson playing sometime mid-late August,” Klentak said. But then again...
“There’s a chance it could, you know, be as far out as Sept. 1,” Klentak added. “But that was all factored into the components of this trade. And, I think we came into this trade deadline — let me back up — this organization has done a very nice job in the last few years of really raising the talent floor up and down the system. That really reared its head at this year’s trade deadline because a lot of the upgrades that teams were pursuing were not really upgrades for us.”
Which has nothing to do with the tease of paying an expensive rental fee (but only in dollars and cents) for an exciting catcher with such an uncertain near future.
Ramos, 30, is a free agent after the season. The Rays, who somehow failed to secure at least a good draft pick for his services as the trade deadline approached, required only a player to be named later or future cash considersations to be wooed into moving him.
But they did get the all-important bonus of having the Phillies agree to pay the bulk of or maybe all of the money still owed to Ramos for 2018. At least that’s how Klentak scripted it.
“The nuts and bolts of this was that we took on a significant portion of the salary and, you know, the return won’t be that heavy,” Klentak said. “We’re uniquely positioned to take on a risk like this and had full support of the owners to make the financial investment in this area. And as I said earlier, the fact that Wilson may not be active for us the next few weeks is not the end of the world for us because we’re excited to continue to let Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, uh, play.”
But the two current catchers’ collective .244 average with 10 cumulative homers and 35 RBIs would seem to be lacking some. Ditto their defense. And with divisional stretch drive foes Atlanta and Washington accounting for a combined 16 games against the Phillies over the last six weeks of the season ... well, it seems worth it.
“We were going to need to add a third catcher in September (anyway), whether it was Wilson Ramos or somebody else,” Klentak said. “So, I’m not going to characterize Wilson Ramos as a third catcher, because he’ll likely be much more than that. But we think now when we reach Sept. 1 we’re going to have a really good situation behind the plate with Ramos, Alfaro and Knapp.”
On top of that, Klentak made a move in the final half-hour before the 4 p.m. deadline to strengthen the Phillies’ bullpen. He acquired veteran reliever Aaron Loup from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Triple-A right-hander Jacob Waguespack.
Loup, also 30, was tied for the sixth-most appearances out of the bullpen in the American League. On top of that, he’s a left-hander, and will be used down the stretch to drive lefty batters crazy.
You know, there’s a lot of those kinds of guys (Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis; Washington’s Juan Soto and Bryce Harper among others) on the rosters of the Nationals and Braves.
“We get incredible reports on Aaron Loup’s makeup and I think he’s going to fit in great among our bullpen group,” Klentak said. “We have some pretty special guys in our bullpen and that was something that was important to us. We didn’t want to upset that positive energy that comes out of our ’pen. Our bullpen has been among the best in baseball for the month of July and they’re on a great roll right now. So anything we did in the bullpen we felt like had to respect that.”