What it could take for Phillies to re-sign Wilson Ramos

What it could take for Phillies to re-sign Wilson Ramos

A week into his Phillies career, this fan base has warmed to Wilson Ramos to the point that many are wondering whether they'll try to keep him around past this season.

This question started pouring in the morning after Ramos' historic, 3-extra-base-hit, 3-RBI debut.

Will they? Should they?

Ramos' last contract

Ramos, who turned 31 on Aug. 10, is a free agent after the season. He'll be coming off a two-year, $12.5 million contract that paid him approximately $8.5 million in 2018.

He signed that deal with the Rays after his All-Star 2016 season with the Nationals, when he hit .307 with an .850 OPS, 22 homers and 80 RBI.

If you're wondering why an All-Star catcher signed such a relatively inexpensive deal, it's because he tore his ACL on Sept. 26 of that 2016 season. Tampa Bay knew it wouldn't have him until late in 2017. The Rays went in essentially paying that $12.5 million for 1½ seasons of Ramos.

That figure is necessary to look back to as an idea of what Ramos will and should be looking for this time around.

Ramos has only built upon his résumé since signing that deal. Over the last three seasons, he has the second-highest batting average (.296) and OPS (.828) among catchers, and that's despite 224 below-average plate appearances when he came back from injury last summer.

The free-agent landscape

Barring a serious injury, Ramos will not just be the top catcher on the free-agent market, he'll be one of the top hitters, period. There's the Bryce Harper-Manny Machado tier, and then the group that includes Ramos, Nelson Cruz and Daniel Murphy.

Powerful, switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal is also a free agent but it seems unlikely the Dodgers let him get away, which means every team looking to upgrade behind the plate will be placing a call to Ramos' agent.

Comparable deals

In December 2013, the Yankees signed a then-29-year-old Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract.

In November 2014, the Blue Jays signed a then-31-year-old Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million contract.

Neither deal has gone as planned. And, as we saw last offseason, the free-agent landscape has changed. When it comes to these lengthy, high-priced contracts, teams are more reluctant now than they were over the last decade. Carlos Santana's $60 million deal was the fourth-largest for a position player this past offseason.

A better template for a deal is the one signed by Francisco Cervelli in May of 2016, a three-year, $31 million extension with the Pirates. Cervelli was the same age. Ramos is a superior player so he will make a higher annual salary.

Something in the three-year, $48 million vicinity seems realistic for Ramos. If the Phillies frontload the contract, perhaps they can get Ramos to agree to make the third year of the deal a mutual option with a buyout.

The Phillies have plenty of money to spend. The issue is, if the free-agent negotiations for Machado and Harper take weeks or longer, another team could swoop in and sign Ramos. So if the Phillies do prioritize bringing him back, they'd have to have these negotiations separately and irrespective of each other and be willing to spend on Ramos even without knowing whether they'll also land a bigger fish.

What about Alfaro?

While the Phillies were supposed to be better in 2018 than they were in 2017, they went into this year looking to learn about many of their young players. It was why Jorge Alfaro was the starting catcher and why the Phillies felt comfortable carrying two young catchers together.

Alfaro has shown flashes of power at the plate and athleticism defensively and on the bases. He's also swung-and-missed at a higher rate than anyone in the majors and struck out at a higher rate than anyone in the majors. Alfaro's punched out 120 times in 322 plate appearances. He's struck out 9 percent more often this season than Ryan Howard did in his career.

Alfaro is out of options, so his fate here is either as the starting catcher or backup. If wins and losses didn't matter for the 2018 Phillies, he would have continued to be their No. 1. But the Phillies arrived earlier than expected and are contending in late-August, so you have to go with the players that give you the best chance to win on a daily basis. It's why Asdrubal Cabrera became the regular shortstop over Scott Kingery and why Ramos will play two-thirds of the remaining games, if not a bit more.

So ... should they re-sign Ramos?

Signing Ramos to a two- or three-year deal would not permanently stunt Alfaro's growth. It would give Alfaro time to develop in the majors as a backup, to learn the little nuances from Ramos and focus on making more contact. On Friday night, Alfaro had a two-strike, broken bat bloop single off Noah Syndergaard to score a runner from third with less than two outs. Those are the kinds of ABs he needs to keep having, because if you're a National League team with a whiff-prone eight-hole hitter, you're essentially giving the opposing team two outs at the bottom of the order.

Gabe Kapler said this week that Ramos' stoicism has stood out and that Alfaro can learn from the veteran's mannerisms both behind the plate and during mound visits. He compared Ramos' impact on a young catcher to Jake Arrieta's on a young pitcher.

"He's almost stoic," Kapler said. "That's an important quality for a catcher to have. Pitchers want to be inspired, but they also want to calmed down."

Let's be real, though, if the Phillies do open the checkbook to re-sign Ramos, it will be because of his bat. That calming veteran presence is an added bonus.

Re-upping (a healthy) Ramos would be a logical move for a team in the Phillies' position — an ascending National League contender with offensive needs and young pitchers. There's no reason they should let him get away, unless an aggressive spender comes over the top and offers five years.

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Sources: Phillies to interview Buck Showalter on Monday

Sources: Phillies to interview Buck Showalter on Monday

The Phillies are quickly getting into their interview process for a new manager.

According to multiple sources, Buck Showalter will interview for the position on Monday. The meeting between Showalter and Phillies officials will take place in the metropolitan New York area, where Showalter is currently working as an analyst for the YES Network.

It is believed that Phillies officials will also speak with Joe Girardi while they are in the New York area on Monday. Girardi lives in that area.

Veteran skipper Dusty Baker is also on the Phillies' list of candidates, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday. A source confirmed that and said Baker would interview with the Phillies later this week.

At a news conference on Friday, Phillies officials would not definitively say what they were looking for in their new manager, but it is believed that they would prefer to hire someone with big-league managerial experience and that has made Girardi and Showalter the presumed frontrunners.

Girardi managed the Yankees from 2008 to 2017. His Yankees team beat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series, prompting Phillies owner John Middleton to famously say, "I want my bleeping trophy back."

Showalter has managed the Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. He is a three-time American League manager of the year and has ties to several people in the Phillies front office, including club president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice. MacPhail led the Orioles baseball operations during part of Showalter's time in Baltimore and Klentak and Rice both worked in the front office. Rice, in fact, worked closely with Showalter during their time in Baltimore.

The Phillies fired Gabe Kapler last week and are one of eight teams with a managerial opening.

At Friday's news conference, MacPhail said Klentak would lead the search for a new Phillies skipper. 

"I don't think there's a relationship more important in a baseball organization than the manager and GM," MacPhail said. "If those two aren't simpatico, you really have issues. I believe it's John's and my goal that Matt go out and start the search. At the end, he's going to have to have the approval of John and I, just like with Gabe. John or I could have vetoed Gabe; we chose not to. But I can't imagine us hiring somebody that Matt is not fully on board with. John and I will have some influence on the guys that fit that criteria who we think might be the best fit, but it's got to emanate from the GM."

Showalter managed the Orioles though 2018 and is eager to manage again. Sources say he is intrigued by the Phillies job and has done homework on the roster.

Girardi interviewed with the Chicago Cubs last week and the New York Mets plan to interview him this week. He will manage somewhere in 2020.

Baker has 22 years of big-league managerial experience and is a three-time NL manager of the year. He last managed the Washington Nationals in 2017 and led that club to 97 wins and the NL East title.

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Source: Phillies set to interview Dusty Baker, one of Bryce Harper's former managers

Source: Phillies set to interview Dusty Baker, one of Bryce Harper's former managers

The Phillies will interview Dusty Baker for their managerial opening later this week, a source confirmed. The news was first reported Sunday by the Chicago Tribune.

Baker, 70, is currently a special advisor to the CEO for the San Francisco Giants.

He has 22 years of managerial experience and is almost universally well-liked. He's a player's manager who is 227 games over .500 in his career. He managed Bryce Harper in 2016 and 2017; the Nationals won 95 and 97 games those years but Baker's contract was not renewed after a pair of NLDS losses. It was a surprising move.

Baker is one of several prominent veteran managers on the market. Joe Girardi, Joe Maddon and Buck Showalter are also prime candidates to claim one of the eight available jobs. Maddon has been linked heavily to the Angels, while Girardi has been linked heavily to the Mets.

The Phillies will interview Showalter Monday in the New York area, according to multiple sources.

At Friday's press conference, Phillies GM Matt Klentak spoke of the organization's desire to have its next manager believe in their core baseball principles. It will likely be a manager who utilizes more of a blend of data and gut-feel. Baker has more than two decades of big-league experience and this would be the most analytically-driven organization he's ever been a part of. The fit is still worth exploring.

It makes sense for the Phillies to cast a wide net in their search. Managing partner John Middleton referenced Craig Counsell on Friday as the kind of high-quality manager whose value can be uncovered during this sort of process.

For more on other potential Phillies managerial candidates, look here.

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