The Philadelphia Phillies weren’t done dealing after their weekend acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera. With an hour to go before the trade deadline, the Phils pulled a deal the Tampa Bay Rays for catcher Wilson Ramos in exchange for a player to be named later.
A former division rival with the Washington Nationals, Ramos has been on the 10-day disabled list since July 18 with a strained hamstring but is expected to return in the next few weeks. Once he is activated, expect him to serve as a major upgrade in the batting order while also serving as a veteran mentor to Jorge Alfaro as he continues to work his way toward becoming the Phillies’ everyday catcher.
Alfaro is still the long-term plan at catcher for the Phillies. He’s been streaky this season—slow in March and April, ripping hot in May, cooler in June, and better in July. For the season he boasts a slash line of .254/.305/.398 with seven home runs and 23 RBI in 78 games.
His raw power is truly a sight to behold. He’s hit some of the hardest balls of the Statcast era since he was recalled late last season. He’s also improved as a defender. Always possessed with a rocket arm, he worked hard in the offseason and boasts improved ball-blocking and pitch-framing ability. Should he continue to improve in that manner, he could quickly become the franchise catcher the team was hoping for when it acquired him in the Cole Hamels deal in 2015.
Joining Alfaro on the roster is Andrew Knapp, whose season has been altogether rockier. He had a horrific start at the plate, and it took hitting .297 in June just to get his batting average to where it is now: .223 for the year. He’s homered four times, including a walk-off against the Washington Nationals on July 1, but hasn’t put together the complete package this season. More worrisome, his defense has left a lot to be desired. He’s thrown out only 17 percent of base stealers this year, and twice in the last month has cost the team a run and even a game when he let relatively simple blocks get past him on third strikes.
It’s clear that some upgrade is needed, but here’s the catch: Alfaro has no more minor league options, meaning whatever seasoning left for him has to come at the major league level. That means Knapp will probably be sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley once Ramos is ready to return.
Ramos serves a dual purpose on the Phillies. First, he brings a much-needed bat to manager Gabe Kapler’s lineup. Ramos was hitting .297/.346/.488 before he went on the DL with 14 homers and 53 RBI, good enough to earn a spot on the All-Star team before he got hurt. That’s the kind of bat that can slot right into the middle of the order or even cause some havoc at the back end. For a team that has been struggling to score in the last week or so, that will be a boon.
Ramos’ second purpose, though, involves Alfaro—and is perhaps even more critical for the long term.
Since Alfaro must do his remaining learning in the majors, it makes sense to acquire a veteran to mentor him. Ramos is a nine-year vet, a two-time All-Star, and has made a playoff appearance. He’s even had to come back from one or two grueling injuries. All this wisdom he can now impart to Alfaro, who has already made palpable improvements in his game even without a player to mentor him. Knapp, who is only in his second year himself, is competition, not someone who can show Alfaro the ropes, and as a guy with options left may do well to go down to Lehigh Valley and work on his defense a little himself.
This is a good trade for the Phillies. They give up little, and they gain a player having one of the best years of his career who can also help their young franchise catcher reach his potential. Matt Klentak has produced a winner here.
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