NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Mets hope Wilson Ramos will be the answer to a long-troublesome problem.
New York officially introduced its new catcher during a Tuesday morning press conference at Citi Field, just hours after announcing that it had signed Ramos to a two-year, $19 million contract with a third-year option.
The move ended weeks of speculation over what new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen would do to address a position that has been a weak spot for the Mets for more than a decade. Since the Mike Piazza era ended in 2007, the Mets have used 29 different catchers.
That prompted Van Wagenen to try to fix the problem this offseason. He had hoped to trade for All-Star J.T. Realmuto, but when the Miami Marlins’ asking price didn’t come down he turned to free agency and found Ramos, a two-time All-Star who finished the 2018 season with a combined .306/.358/.487 slash line with 15 home runs and 70 RBIs for the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies.
“Wilson was the perfect fit for us,” Van Wagenen said. “When we had a chance to sit down with him, this guy commanded the room. His poise and his confidence were extremely compelling to us as we sat across from him, and by the end of the week it was clear that we needed to make him a priority for us.”
Nicknamed “The Buffalo,” Ramos said his meeting with Van Wagenen in Las Vegas convinced him that the Mets were the right choice. New York, which is coming off a disappointing 77-85 season, is looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity to be given to me, to help the team. I know I can help this team to win,” Ramos said. “Everybody knows me already, and what I can do.
“It’s a good challenge for me to be here,” the 31-year-old Venezuelan added. “(The Mets) have a really good team. The rotation is really good. I like to work with young pitchers. It’s a young team. I want to win and I feel like this team can win.”
Ramos made the AL All-Star team in this year but missed the game with a hamstring issue, and injuries have been a problem for him the past few years. Most notably, he tore his right ACL at the end of a breakout 2016 season with the Washington Nationals, likely costing himself millions of dollars as a free agent that offseason. He ended up with Tampa Bay with a $12.5 million, two-year deal and earned an additional $2 million this year as an escalator for making 55 starts at catcher in 2017
He was also on the disabled list twice in 2015 — with a broken little finger in his right hand and a strained left elbow — in 2016 with a strained right rotator cuff and in 2017 with a bruised right wrist.
Ramos, who will wear No. 40 with the Mets, said his health is not a concern heading into 2019, particularly his reconstructed knee.
“I’ve been working with my agility stuff and I’m not working on my knee anymore because I feel 100 percent with my knee,” Ramos said.
Ramos crosses another item off Van Wagenen’s to-do list. The former agent acquired All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from Seattle and also brought back former New York closer Jeurys Familia on a $30 million, three-year deal. The team may still pursue an upgrade in center field and a left-handed reliever.
“This action, rather than inaction, should demonstrate to the fans that we say as we do and do as we say,” Van Waganen said.
Ramos is expected to be New York’s primary catcher, with Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki as possible backups. D’Arnaud, who turns 30 in February, has been on the disabled list in five straight seasons as injuries limited him to 366 major league games, an average of 73 per season.
D’Arnaud was 3 for 15 (.200) with one homer and three RBIs in four games this year when he felt tightness in his right elbow during pregame drills in Miami. He was sent to New York and had an MRI that revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek performed Tommy John surgery on April 17.
Ramos is a career .273 hitter with 109 home runs and 426 RBIs over nine seasons with Minnesota, Washington, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.