Mets: Wilson Ramos as the 2020 starting catcher is the right decision

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 26: Wilson Ramos #40 of the New York Mets celebrates his sixth inning home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field on July 26, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 26: Wilson Ramos #40 of the New York Mets celebrates his sixth inning home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field on July 26, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The New York Mets appear ready to move forward with Wilson Ramos as their starting catcher in 2020. If so, it’s the right decision.

Over the last several years, the New York Mets have had a dearth of offense at the starting catcher position. Travis d’Arnaud was supposed to be a cornerstone of the Mets for years to come, but his years in Flushing were hallmarked by injuries, under-performance, and a batting average under .250 every year except 2015. Kevin Plawecki also spent a considerable amount of time behind the plate from 2015-2018, but he, too, was unable to contribute much to the offense.

Finally, in 2019, the Mets actually had a catcher who could hit.  For all of Brodie Van Wagenen’s questionable offseason decisions between 2018 and 2019, signing Wilson Ramos to a two-year deal was undoubtedly one of his best moves. Ramos was coming off of an All-Star season in 2018, and backed that up with a solid offensive performance in 2019: .288 batting average with 14 home runs, 73 RBI, 44 walks, and only 69 strikeouts in 524 plate appearances.

These offensive stats put Ramos as one of the best-hitting catchers in all of baseball in 2019. His .288 average led all MLB catchers, he was second overall in hits and OBP, and his 73 RBI were 4th in the majors for catchers. In every possible way, Ramos was the best-hitting catcher the Mets have had in years.

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So why do so many sportswriters and Mets fans want him gone?

Upon further examination of his 2019 season, his defensive stats stand out as a sore spot. Ramos was consistently unable to throw out baserunners, and his 94 stolen bases allowed led all NL catchers. This heavily contributed to the Mets’ pitchers leading all of baseball, by a wide margin, with 139 stolen bases allowed. Ramos added to these defensive struggles with 10 passed balls in 2019, 3rd most among NL catchers.

Ramos also made many headlines toward the end of this season when word got out that Noah Syndergaard privately spoke to Van Wagenen and asked to have backup catchers Tomas Nido or Rene Rivera catch him instead of Ramos.

While Syndergaard repeatedly claimed that this was a misunderstanding, the subsequent media firestorm caused many fans to further examine Ramos’ defense and determine that he was causing problems for the pitchers.

It is undeniable that the Mets’ team defense is a weakness, and Ramos is a part of that. But with J.T. Realmuto, the game’s best defensive catcher, likely to get locked up for several years in Philadelphia, and Yasmani Grandal already off the free agent market, there are simply very few catching options available that are an overall improvement over Ramos.

If the Mets were to look elsewhere for their 2020 starting catcher, Robinson Chirinos and Jason Castro are two potential targets.

Chirinos is not known for his defense, and despite his consistent presence on the field in Houston, he only batted .238 for the year with 17 home runs and 58 RBI. Chirinos also allowed 45 stolen bases and committed six errors in 2019, both fourth-most in the AL. At age 35, three years older than Ramos, it is hard to imagine why signing Chirinos would provide any significant upgrade as the Mets’ starting catcher.

Castro is another potential 2020 catching option for the Mets, but more likely as a backup catcher rather than the starting catcher. With Nido failing to provide much offensive or defensive value for the Mets in 2019, they should be in the market for a better backup.

However, Castro’s 2019 offense was not a wow factor. He batted a relatively pedestrian .232 with 13 home runs and 30 RBI in 79 games, and his defense also was not remarkably better than Ramos’s.

There are other free agent catchers for the Mets to consider, such as Austin Romine and Martin Maldonado, but neither is an obvious upgrade over Ramos. The fact of the matter is, there are no longer any outstanding free agent catchers available this offseason.

With Ramos providing much-needed offensive production in 2019, it would be difficult to imagine the Mets draining the farm system and trading for a catcher before Opening Day 2020. There are no star catching prospects in the Mets’ minor league system particularly close to making their major league debut, either.

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Ramos is certainly not the best defensive catcher in baseball. But with the Mets needing more effective relievers, and potentially a starting pitcher if they can’t resign Zack Wheeler, they cannot afford to waste precious resources attempting to upgrade from Ramos this offseason. Instead, the team should feel confident that, with some pitching upgrades and another backup catcher, Ramos can help lead them to success in 2020.