Outside of second base, the biggest opportunity for the Brewers to make an upgrade this offseason is behind the plate.
While Manny Pina and Erik Kratz have their strengths and are fine for what they are, there’s no denying that they’re limited offensively -- something that became especially apparent during the team’s longer offensive droughts in the 2018 season, when it felt like anyone hitting below 5th in the batting order was a near-automatic out.
So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see David Stearns checking in on his catching options early. Adam McCalvy reports from Day 2 of the Winter Meetings that not only are the Brewers interested in free agent Wilson Ramos, but the two have already had a “very good” in-person meeting:
A source says Brewers officials met Monday with free agent catcher Wilson Ramos, who is here in person at Mandalay Bay. More:https://t.co/RbwHAtiMlt— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) December 11, 2018
McCalvy says Ramos has also had a meeting with the New York Mets, although New York’s senior circuit squad seems to be more fixated on trying to trade for Miami’s J.T. Realmuto at the moment. Ramos would likely be the fallback plan if they can’t land the star catcher from their division rivals.
In addition to the Mets, the A’s and Twins are also said to be interested. Like the Brewers, neither would be considered big free agent spenders, and Ramos is preferable to those clubs compared to the likes of Yasmani Grandal, who would likely command much more money and require forfeiting a draft pick after he rejected a qualifying offer from the Dodgers.
Ramos started the 2018 season in Tampa Bay, where he hit .297/.346/.488 in 78 games before he was traded to Philadelphia. With the Phillies, he hit .337/.396/.483 in 33 games as their playoff push fell short.
The Brewers would be giving up quite a bit of defense behind the plate if they were to turn to the 31-year-old Ramos as their everyday catcher, though. He was worth -5 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018. Manny Pina was at +6. He’s also no longer a great pitch-framer, coming in at -0.8 Framing Runs Above Average in 2018 after being rated 3.1 runs below average in 2017. Erik Kratz was at +10.4 this year.
While Stearns has cautioned he doesn’t have as much money to spend this winter as some people might think he does, Ramos might be more attainable than the Grandals of the world based on those defensive concerns and his injury history. That would make him a bit of a gamble, but the Brewers are at a point where they may need a gamble to put them over the top -- or even keep up in a division that’s already seen Paul Goldschmidt added to the mix.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs