NEW YORK -- If Brodie Van Wagenen’s public statements last week were not evidence enough, Yasmani Grandal's signing with the White Sox on Thursday should have been. The Mets are committed to Wilson Ramos at catcher in 2020. They’re committed to the good and they’re committed to the bad, and
NEW YORK -- If Brodie Van Wagenen’s public statements last week were not evidence enough, Yasmani Grandal's signing with the White Sox on Thursday should have been. The Mets are committed to Wilson Ramos at catcher in 2020. They’re committed to the good and they’re committed to the bad, and Ramos is out to prove that there will be much more of the former than the latter.
“I hear a lot of bad things about me this year behind the plate,” Ramos said Thursday, after delivering a Thanksgiving dinner to a Queens family as part of the team’s “Metsgiving” initiative. “But I’m focusing on working to get better.”
Specifically, Ramos is aware of those who slight him for ranking as one of the league’s worst pitch framers. Of the 32 Major League catchers who spent at least 600 innings behind the plate last season, Ramos finished 26th in FanGraphs’ framing metric. He was also 27th in Defensive Runs Saved and 28th in caught stealing percentage, allowing an MLB-high 94 stolen bases in 111 attempts.
That’s the bad. The good is that after a slow start in the power department, Ramos hit .304/.368/.458 with 13 homers over his final 397 plate appearances, ranking fifth among Major League catchers over that stretch in OPS. That, combined with Ramos’ $10.25 million salary next year in the final guaranteed season of his two-year contract, is why Van Wagenen said at the GM Meetings that “we have a starting catcher in Wilson Ramos that we were pleased with his performance, particularly in the second half.”
“Our starting pitchers got very comfortable throwing to him in the second half of the year, and we feel like there are very few catchers that can be improvements on who we have,” Van Wagenen continued. "So we like who we have, and we expect to go into the season with Wilson Ramos as our guy.”
One of those potential improvements was Grandal, who rejected a multiyear offer from the Mets last offseason before they pivoted to Ramos. But Grandal signed Thursday for $73 million -- nearly four times the guarantee on Ramos’ deal. It’s the type of luxury the Mets, who are seeking rotation, bullpen and outfield upgrades this winter, cannot afford if they wish to stay under Major League Baseball’s $208 million luxury tax threshold.
• What Grandal signing means for catching market
Van Wagenen has reportedly checked in on free agent catcher Robinson Chirinos, but mostly is pursuing backup options to pair with Ramos behind the plate. The only other catchers on the Mets’ 40-man roster are Tomás Nido, who could return as Ramos’ primary backup, and Ali Sanchez, a defensive-minded prospect who probably isn’t quite ready for the big leagues. A veteran signing would offer the Mets some insurance.
But the reality is that no matter whom the Mets acquire, Ramos -- who appeared in a career-high 141 games last season -- will start most days behind the plate so long as he is healthy. He’s spending this winter working on his agility and pitch framing, in an effort to become more of an all-around asset.
“I’m concentrating on working really hard to give a good year next year for the team,” Ramos said. “I’m very happy with what Brodie said, and I’m just trying to get stronger and better to be able to be behind the plate for a lot of games next year.”
In the interim, Ramos is giving back to the community. Thursday’s Metsgiving event saw Ramos and team employees deliver more than 2,000 turkeys to families across all five New York City boroughs, working in tandem with local food banks. Ramos also routinely participates in charitable causes in his native Venezuela.
“I’m very excited to see faces with the biggest smiles,” Ramos said. “I’m very happy to be able to do that.”
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.