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Posted on December 12, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Washington Nationals Wilson Ramos

Image via espn.com

The Tampa Bay Rays completed the signing of catcher Wilson Ramos on Monday. An agreement was reached last week during the Winter Meetings but the Rays officially announced the deal on Monday. The deal is for two years and $12.5 million, which is not exactly the contract Ramos envisioned for much of the 2016 season, which was by far the best of his career offensively, but it’s a deal that could end up working out well for both sides.

Ramos was undoubtedly one of the top catchers available on the free agent market this winter after he hit .307 with a .850 OPS in 2016. But an ACL tear, the second of his career, late in the season hindered his value. Knowing that he probably won’t be available on opening day made teams back off, including the Washington Nationals, for whom Ramos has played since 2010. However, every other team’s loss is Tampa Bay’s gain, at least from their perspective.

“We’re really excited to bring Wilson aboard,” said Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom Monday after the deal was made official. “When he’s healthy, he’s one of the better catchers in the game. He contributes on both sides of the ball. He contributes behind the plate, he helps the pitching staff and he’s a really good hitter.”

Even after the injury, there were reports that Ramos was seeking a five-year deal, but such a request wasn’t realistic. Eventually, Ramos realized that he would have to settle for a short-term deal, most likely with an American League club, where he could serve as a DH until his knee healed enough to play behind the plate. In a way, that made him the perfect fit for the Rays, who admitted that they usually can’t afford to free agents like Ramos.

“This type of talent is not usually talent that we have access to through the free-agent market,” said Bloom. “We know there’s a long road back, still, for Wilson. We just look at it as a good match for what both of us were looking for.”

Ramos says that his rehab is going well and that he may be able to serve as Tampa Bay’s DH as early as May. He also said on Monday that he plans to make an effort to get to know Tampa Bay’s pitching staff even before he’s cleared to resume catching. “I’ll reach out to them and learn how they like to pitch and work when they’re on the mound, what they like to throw in certain situations,” Ramos said. “That way, I’ll be ready for them when I get behind the plate.”

At the moment, the Rays don’t have a full-time DH, although if they add an outfielder this winter, Corey Dickerson should end up getting most of his at bats as a DH. However, Dickerson can easily move into the outfield to free up the DH spot when Ramos is ready to hit. In the meantime, Luke Maile and Curt Casali are lined up to split the catching duties for the Rays until Ramos is ready, although exactly when that will be remains uncertain.

Nevertheless, the Rays have signed Ramos to a two-year deal, so even if he is slow to come back in 2017, the Rays will have him back in 2018, presumably healthy and in another contract year. In that sense, the deal should has a chance to work out well for both Tampa Bay and Ramos, even if Ramos struggles to come back from his injury next season.