Tampa Bay Rays

For trade to really work, Phillies need Wilson Ramos to get healthy quickly

For trade to really work, Phillies need Wilson Ramos to get healthy quickly

BOSTON — The Phillies made a low-risk, potentially high-reward acquisition when they picked up catcher Wilson Ramos from the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline on Tuesday. Ramos is an All-Star and a run producer and he will improve the Phillies' overall catching situation.

When he gets on the field.

Ramos is currently on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and it is not exactly clear when he’ll be able to play for the Phillies. He might be ready in two weeks. Or he might not be ready until Sept. 1, according to general manager Matt Klentak. Either way, the Phillies, losers of four straight games and clinging to a half-game lead in the NL East entering Tuesday night’s game in Fenway Park, will have to survive for a while before Ramos is even ready.

Ramos’ health situation was “factored into the components of the deal,” according to Klentak. In other words, the Phils didn’t give up much for him. They will send a player to be named later or cash to Tampa Bay to complete the deal. Ramos, who will be a free agent at season’s end, is owed about $2.8 million for the remainder of the season and the Phils will have no trouble swallowing that.

Ramos, 30, is a burly right-handed hitter. He was hitting .297 with 14 homers, 53 RBIs and an .834 OPS when he injured his hamstring just before the All-Star break. Two years ago, he hit .307 with 22 homers, 80 RBIs and an .850 OPS for Washington.

Phillies catchers Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp have combined for a .702 OPS this season and the tandem leads the majors in strikeouts at the position. They are also fourth in the majors with a combined 13 passed balls. Ramos will be a clear upgrade — again, when he gets on the field.

“Wilson Ramos is a proven commodity, both behind the plate and at the plate and then also as a teammate,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He makes us deep and stronger.”

Ramos was the second hitter acquired by the Phillies in recent days, joining Asdrubal Cabrera.

The Phillies also added lefty reliever Aaron Loup from Toronto on Tuesday. Minor-league pitcher Jake Waguespack went to the Jays. Division rivals Washington and Atlanta both have lineups dotted with big lefty bats and the Phillies believe Loup will help combat them down the stretch.

One area the Phillies did not address was starting pitching. Phillies starters rank fourth in the NL with a 3.84 ERA. Management is banking on that unit continuing to perform and the starters at Triple A providing depth.

“We are really excited about our starting pitching,” Klentak said. “No matter how you measure it, our starting five have been among the better starting fives in all of baseball this year. I recognize that that’s not every single night, but the total body of work puts us at or near the top.

“On top of that, we have players like Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez and Cole Irvin and others in Triple A to give us a lot of confidence that we have depth to support the five in the big leagues right now.

“If you can stay out of the trade market for starting pitching at the trade deadline, you should do that because it tends to be very expensive. It’s a credit to all of our international, amateur, and professional scouts and their efforts over the last few years that we have starting pitching right now. We don’t take that for granted and we’re happy to not have to play in that market.”

The Phillies’ biggest need leading up to the deadline was offense. The team pursued the biggest bat on the market, infielder Manny Machado, but failed to land him. The club moved on and traded for switch-hitting infielder Cabrera on Friday and he so far has played shortstop, second base and served as the team’s designated hitter in the current two-game series against Boston.

“We identified a few key areas that we felt we could upgrade,” Klentak said. “The first of which was offense in the infield, the second was some more thump behind the plate. And the other was just giving us a third lefty for the bullpen.

“What I am happy about in all three of those cases is that it will not dramatically affect the playing time of our young players. Our young players are principally the reason we are where we are in the standings and we want to continue to let those guys play. But on the other hand, we saw opportunities to add veterans that can help in certain key areas. I’m pleased that we were able to address those areas.”

The Phillies made these additions without tearing through their farm system, which they see as important because, though the team has improved greatly this season and played itself into contention, it is still seen as a team on the rise. Management was committed to balancing the present with the future. They’ve done that. Now the question is: Will it be enough to make the postseason?

Time will tell.

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Phillies trade for Rays All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos

Phillies trade for Rays All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos

The Phillies made a significant upgrade on trade deadline day, acquiring All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos from the Tampa Bay Rays. 

The Phils are sending the Rays a player to be named later or cash. To make room on the 40-man roster, left-handed reliever Zac Curtis was waived. 

The move was announced right at 3 p.m.

Ramos hasn't played since July 14 and is currently on the DL with a hamstring injury, though he's on the road back and was scheduled to catch a live bullpen session over the weekend. However, according to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, the Rays think Ramos is a few weeks away.

When he returns, Ramos represents a big-time offensive upgrade for the Phillies, perhaps the biggest they could make at this late stage of the trade window. The 30-year-old has hit .297/.346/.488 with 14 doubles, 14 homers and 53 RBI in 315 plate appearances. Phillies catchers have hit .244/.317/.393 with four fewer home runs and 85 more strikeouts.

Ramos has been an All-Star in two of the last three seasons, hitting .294 with an .821 OPS. Over that same span, all MLB catchers have hit .242 with a .707 OPS. Ramos is one of the few very good offensive backstops left in the game.

League-wide, there were only four players traded this month who have an OPS over .800 — Manny Machado, Ramos, Asdrubal Cabrera and Eduardo Escobar — and the Phillies got two of 'em.

Behind the plate, Ramos has thrown out 31 percent of base stealers in his career, three percent better than the league average.

Defense behind the plate has been a major issue for the Phillies, who have the most passed balls in the National League and the second-most wild pitches. They didn't arrive at those ranks by accident. Ramos is a more polished defensive catcher than either Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp at this stage in their careers.

When Ramos is ready to return from the DL, Knapp could be the roster casualty because Alfaro is out of options, though it would be temporary with rosters expanding on Sept. 1. Knapp is 1 for his last 16 but has hit .284 with a .361 OBP over his last 83 plate appearances.

Ramos was by far Tampa Bay's most expensive player. He's owed about $3.5 million the rest of the season before becoming a free agent.

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Crank up the tunes, fire up light show, Phillies are hot and having fun

Crank up the tunes, fire up light show, Phillies are hot and having fun

BOX SCORE

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Aaron Altherr reached into his back pocket for the skinny on how to play Denard Span with a right-handed pitcher on the mound. The card said “R-5” so Altherr moved five steps to his right. A moment later, he made the play of the game in the Phillies’ sixth straight win, a 10-4 victory over the Rays that locked up the team’s second straight three-game sweep Sunday (see first take).

“Everybody notices when it doesn’t work, but it goes both ways,” Altherr said of the defensive alignment strategies that the team is employing under new manager Gabe Kapler. “We pretty much stick to the card we get. The card stayed true to the yardage there that time.”

Altherr’s diving catch on Span’s hard-hit, sinking liner to right ended the sixth inning. It came with runners on second and third and the Phils up by two. Had Altherr not made the catch, the game would have been tied heading into the late innings. Instead, the Phillies exploded for five runs in the eighth, three on Altherr’s three-run homer.

For Altherr, the catch was sweet. So was the home run. He had been just 2 for 34 on the season before it.

“Hopefully that means some good things are coming,” Altherr said.

Plenty of good things have come to this team lately. The Phils have won eight of nine. Sure, they have come against weak teams in the Marlins, Reds and Rays, but you can only beat who the schedule maker sends your way. Tougher tests will come, but at least the Phils have cleaned up where they should. They have outscored teams, 37-18, during their six-game win streak. At 9-5, they are off to their best start since their last playoff season, 2011. The offense has been robust. The starting pitching has mostly been good. The bullpen has been excellent. On Sunday, it picked up five innings and allowed just an unearned run after Ben Lively departed.

Reliever Luis Garcia said he was “lucky” Altherr made the catch on the liner he served up to Span.

“The read, the break, the laying out and the positioning were all spot on,” Kapler said.

It was the second time in three games the Phillies' staff had an outfielder in the right spot to make a catch with the game on the line. Odubel Herrera benefited from positioning in Friday night's win (see story).

The Phils had two big innings. Long before the decisive eighth, they scored four in the third, three coming on rookie Scott Kingery’s double on an 0-2 fastball from lefty Ryan Yarbrough. Half of Kingery’s 14 hits are doubles and he has 12 RBIs, second to Maikel Franco’s 15.

“Sweeps are tough to come by,” Kapler said.

The Phils hadn’t had a three-game sweep against an American League East club since Baltimore in 2003. They celebrated this one. Then again, they celebrate all wins with loud music and a portable light-show machine that they take on the road. Tommy Hunter was the mastermind of the postgame celebration routine and Brother Gabe is all for it.

“These guys know how to keep it light,” Kapler said. “I think there are plenty of guys smiling in our clubhouse right now, in part because they’ve made it an intention to have fun. I think it’s important in baseball because there’s so much stress and so much pressure and so much on the line each night to pick your times to indulge and have a great time and these guys know how to do that.”