Getting on same page with Mets’ starters

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Part 20 in a series analyzing the New York Mets.

Wilson Ramos was Plan C, but probably played more like a C-plus in his first season with the Mets.

After the Mets failed in their attempt to land J.T. Realmuto in a trade with the Marlins — he was ultimately dealt to the Phillies — general manager Brodie Van Wagenen pivoted to the free-agent market, where he tried to sign Yasmani Grandal. But the two sides never reached agreement, turning the focus to Ramos, who arrived on a two-year deal worth $19 million. Grandal, by the way, turned down roughly $60 million from the Mets and took a one-year deal with the Brewers, but got his money over the winter, agreeing to a four-year contract worth $73 million with the White Sox.

Given his defensive shortcomings, the Mets would have preferred a bigger splash offensively from Ramos, but received a respectable .288/.351/.416 slash line with 14 homers and 73 RBIs. Most notably, after two straight injury-plagued seasons, Ramos appeared in 141 games.

The Mets will face a decision on Ramos after the season — his contract contains a club option for 2021 worth $10 million. The Mets can buy out that option for $1.5 million. Realmuto is among the catchers who can become free agents, perhaps giving the Mets another crack at the CAA client (Van Wagenen served as the co-head of the firm’s baseball division before becoming the Mets general manager).

Wilson Ramos
Wilson RamosAP

Ramos’ biggest issue last season was getting in sync with the Mets’ starting pitchers. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard most notably preferred other options behind the plate, forcing the Mets to turn more often than anticipated to backup Tomas Nido.

Ramos, 32, arrived at spring training this year vowing a better working relationship with the pitchers. Among the changes he had implemented was dropping to one knee, allowing him to set a better low target.

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“For me it was hard to get those [low] pitches a little bit because I am a big guy,” said Ramos, nicknamed “Buffalo” and listed at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds. “In the past I never worked with my knee on the ground, so this year and at the end of last year I worked more with my knee on the ground and that helped me to grab those pitches down very well.”

If this season is played, the Mets won’t get a chance to see if Ramos’ chemistry with Syndergaard has improved; the right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in March that will keep him sidelined into 2021. The Mets would settle for adequate from Ramos.

“[Ramos] has always had that challenge defensively, just in terms of movement, lateral movement, he’s just not very quick,” a scout from a National League team said. “Catching is always the type of position, people used to complain about [Mike] Piazza’s defense. But then all of a sudden they stopped complaining about it when he was hitting 40 home runs a year and then all of a sudden it was a non-issue.

“With Wilson you just have to remind him to stay engaged defensively and to keep the pitchers locked in. Catching is so important in terms of getting locked in to the daily plan with the pitchers and being on the same page.”

Ramos changed his hitting approach as last season progressed, going from a contact hitter back to his strength as somebody who tries to drive the ball.

“He’s always been a dangerous hitter,” the scout said. “Coming up he really stayed in the middle of the field. He’s always worn out right-center field when he was coming up with Minnesota and Washington, and I think last year near the end of the year he started tapping into his pull-side power, driving more balls to the left side of the diamond with authority and we saw more of who he really is, I think those last two months of the season.”

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