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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