Posted on October 27, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
One of the most intriguing players on the free agent market this winter is bound to be Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos. On one hand, Ramos plays a premium position and is coming off an exceptional offensive season. On the other hand, he suffered the second ACL tear of his career late in the season and will likely start next season on the DL. Before the injury, Ramos was looking at a big payday with some team. However, nothing appears to be certain following the injury. Nevertheless, Ramos is said to still be seeking a long-term deal. Meanwhile the Nationals debate whether or not to extend him a qualifying offer.
Ramos had his surgery in the middle of October, and with an estimated six-to-eight month timeframe for his recovery, the best case scenario is that he’ll be able to return in the middle of April. That timeframe could make clubs hesitant to go after them, especially if that team plans on contending in the short term and doesn’t have a viable alternative if Ramos is pencilled in as the every day catcher. His agent says that Ramos will be evaluated by doctors in mid-November, at which point a more precise timetable may be given to help teams that may have interest in signing the backstop.
Of course, a mid-November update from his doctors will not help the Nationals determine whether or not to make him a qualifying offer of $17.2 million for the 2017 season. Washington will have to decide within five days of the World Series ending whether to make Ramos the offer or not. He would then have 10 days to decide whether he wants to accept it and return to the Nationals for another year or hit the open market.
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Before his injury, Ramos receiving a qualifying offer from the Nationals would have been a no-brainer, especially after he turned down a 3-year, $30 million extension in August. However, since it’s unlikely that Ramos will be cleared to play by opening day and there’s uncertainty about how much he’ll be able to play in 2017, he may be more willing to accept $17.2 million for next year and take his chances on the open market next winter, putting the Nationals in a tricky position.
“He came out of the surgery well,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Thursday. “We’re going to see what the short-term rehab is. We’ll do all the due diligence on the medicals, which is the most important factor in what our plans are for Wilson. Once we get together with all the medical people that are involved, we’ll have a better idea of where we’re at with Wilson. Then we’ll employ a strategy that best fits our needs and the need to improve the ball club in any way we can.”
Of course, if Ramos is seeking a four- or five-year contract from a team, he would certainly pass on the offer, even if he did so before teams get an update on how he’s recovering from the surgery. Thus, passing on the offer could be risky from Ramos’ point of view. This brings us back to the original point, which is that Ramos will be one of the most interesting free agents to monitor this winter, starting with whether the Nationals make him a qualifying offer or not.