Wilson Ramos said he never discussed the possibility of signing with the Tigers with good friend Miguel Cabrera while they worked out together this offseason in South Florida. But when the team called with interest last week, their friendship played a role in drawing the veteran catcher to Detroit.
Ramos doesn’t know much about his new pitching staff yet, though he said he has talked with Matthew Boyd since signing a one-year, $2 million contract last Friday. Ramos has played in just three games at Comerica Park in his career. But he knows Cabrera, and he knows what it means to call him a teammate.
“I know Miggy from a long time ago, more than 10 years ago when we played in winter ball in Venezuela,” Ramos said on a Monday afternoon video conference with reporters. “Working out right now with him, we have good support of each other. That’s why I’m happy to sign with the Tigers, because I feel really good working out with him. That relationship helped me make that decision.”
Ramos said he has been working out with Cabrera since early November. They’ve pushed each other along the way to achieve their goals. For Ramos, the priority was to drop weight, regain some agility behind the plate and ease wear and tear on his 33-year-old knees.
Ramos said he weighed around 270 pounds last season but has dropped to 245 now. What he was looking to gain was playing time despite his age, having started 38 of 60 games for the Mets last year.
Ramos started 113 games behind the plate for the Mets in 2019, baseball’s last full season. At his peak, he started 123 for the Nationals in 2015 and 122 games the following season. The more consistent playing time he gets, the more productive he believes he can be, both at the plate and behind it.
“I already talked with [new manager] A.J. [Hinch] a little bit about what I want for this year, and one of the things I told him was [I want] to play a little bit more, play every day. I’m looking for that,” Ramos said. “In my career, I’m more consistent when I play like that. I was looking for that opportunity, and they gave me the opportunity to sign with them. That’s the only thing I want from them.”
If Ramos performs, he should get ample opportunity in Detroit, but he could cede some time to
“I just had a little bit of conversation with the lefty guy, Boyd,” Ramos said. “I’ll just wait until we meet in person during Spring Training. I want to start [getting] to know each other and see what they like to throw and all that. But the first thing I want is to get a good communication with them and try to be on the same page. That’s the most important thing right now. I did it in the past with the Tampa Bay Rays and then the New York Mets, working out with young groups, and I know how to handle that.”
Ramos handled a star-studded rotation with the Mets, though his relationship with Noah Syndergaard hit the back pages when the pitcher began working exclusively with backup Tomas Nido in 2019. By contrast, Ramos worked statistically well with National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom as well as Steven Matz. He changed his catching stance to dropping down to one knee with nobody on base last year, but he was better gaining called strikes on pitches in and out compared to low pitches, according to Statcast.
Offensively, Ramos joined the growing group of hitters trying to lift the ball in the air more often compared with a line-drive approach. His average launch angle of 6.5 degrees was his highest since tracking began in 2015, and his barrel percentage rose to 7.1 percent. On the flip side, his average exit velocity dropped a tick to 89 mph, and his contact rate on pitches in the zone fell to a low of 80.3 percent. He ended up hitting .239 (34-for-142) with five home runs, 15 RBIs and an 88 OPS+.
“That was a tough year,” Ramos said. “Now, I already have 2 1/2 months working on my swing, and I feel really good with what I’m doing right now.”
Considering Ramos has spent 10 of his 11 Major seasons in the NL East, he understandably does not have much experience hitting at Comerica Park. He last played there in 2018, when he went 4-for-8 across two games. But he said he was looking for a change of scenery and a new division.
“I know that’s a big ballpark, especially right-center, where I hit the ball more,” he said. “But right now I’m working on just getting a good angle on the swing and put a good swing on the ball, like before in my career. I know I have a little bit of pop and the ball will carry if I hit a ball well.
“I was jogging a little bit with the guys working out with me and they said, ‘Hey, now you will get a couple triples in your career if you hit the ball in that gap.’ And I said, ‘I’m good with doubles.’”