The mid-2017 future is bright for Wilson Ramos even with another torn ACL

It is time for some myth busting. The long-term prognosis should be bright for Wilson Ramos according to Dr. A. Brion Gardner who is a local orthopedic surgeon with The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors also weighed in on Ramos’ future value and other factors.

Some of the medical opinions given go against much of the public consensus which we will discuss below. Yes, the short-term outlook is certain for Ramos who will be out for the remainder of the 2016 season after he went down in pain on Monday night and will be getting a revision surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that was also surgically repaired in 2012.

Like a shot in the gut from a boxer, the news we feared was starting to come out via Twitter:

“There’s always a level of concern when you lose a guy of that caliber,” Baker said Monday night. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for [us]. We just got to next man up. We got some guys that have to pick it up.”

Next man up is of course what you do as the Nationals will now have to turn to Pedro Severino and José Lobaton. There is not another catcher in baseball with the stats that Ramos has. Ramos’ season finished with a .307 batting average. His clutch stats were even better with a .333 batting average and .397 on-base-percentage with RISP (runners in scoring position).  In high leverage spots, Ramos got even better batting .349 with a .398 on-base-percentage. All of his clutch stats remained good even after Ramos had a slump from mid-August to early September, and Ramos still had two games where he hit home runs to lift his team in 1-0 game winners beating the Giants and the Mets. Wilson Ramos had racked up 80 RBIs this season, and 10 of them were game-winning RBIs while the other catchers have combined for just 9 RBIs this season.

“It’s bad for [Ramos] personally as he enters free agency,” Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports said on MLB Network. “It’s really rough for the Nationals…Without this horse it is going to be really difficult. He meant an awful lot to them this year.”

How will this injury impact Ramos in free agency? Last week, news broke that the Nationals offered Ramos a 3 year extension which he reportedly turned down. We reported that the deal was closer to $35 million for three years. There are reasons you take your Powerball ticket because you just never know what can happen as we saw with Ian Desmond and now with Wilson Ramos. Ramos’ future is now a little murky as teams will not know when Ramos will be ready as it could be April, but it could also be July according to Dr. Gardner. Teams will not be willing to pay for Ramos for a full season as they will not know if he is only going to be able to play in half of the 2017 season.

Per MLB rules, the only team that can negotiate with Ramos is the Nationals until he is declared a free agent. Jon Heyman just two weeks ago rated Wilson Ramos as his Top 3 best free agents worthy of a 4 year $68 million deal. Heyman ranked Ramos ahead of Ian Desmond and Jose Bautista and everyone else who are not named Yoenis Cespedes and Edwin Encarnacion.

We had a long discussion with Dr. A. Brion Gardner who is an orthopedic surgeon for the very large DC based group of  The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics on the future of Wilson Ramos’ knee.

Dr. Gardner of course has not examined Wilson Ramos, and all of his opinions are more general in nature. Dr. Gardner has performed many ‘revision surgeries’ as they are known as when a subsequent surgery is performed on the same knee that had already been surgically repaired.

“The good news is that Ramos should be able to make a full recovery,” Dr. Gardner said. “Generally, the recovery is longer for a second go around on an ACL surgery. The procedure will probably require an allograft which is when the surgeon will use a cadaver for a new tendon which is common for a second ACL surgery.”

That is great news that Ramos should make a full recovery, and Dr. Gardner said he could only envision issues if there was other damage to the rest of his knee cartilage or large meniscus damage that could lead to problems many years down the road. If all other factors are fine with the knee, and there’s no arthritis those would be his only fears since he has not examined him. Ramos is also 29-years-old and not 39-years-old which is good, and furthermore Ramos is not an NFL running back or an NBA point guard where explosive speed is part of his game.

Another myth busted by Dr. Gardner is that he did not see Ramos’s knee as a ticking time bomb where this injury was inevitable to happen at any time.

“The nature of the beast and occupational hazard is that an injury could happen at any time,” Dr. Gardner said. “But no no no, he was not a ticking time bomb that anyone could have known it was going happen. He could have just as easily blown out his left knee if he came down on that. This was just bad luck. The fact that he had surgery before on the same leg I don’t believe it had any correlation.”

It’s a one hour surgery if it is just the ACL according to Dr. Gardner, and Ramos will be first time running in 3 to 4 months and full activity in 6 to 9 months, but he can start swinging a bat in two months.

On a second time surgery, you can expect Ramos to be running on a straight line in 4 months. It takes longer for the tissue to heal. The advantage Ramos has as a professional athlete is that he will have the best in rehab people. Ramos’ job going forward is doing rehab. This is quicker a timeline than the non-professional athlete.

“You may not be as fast as you were before,” Dr. Gardner said. “But for a baseball catcher where Ramos’ game is not built for speed I would tell him he has a great shot at full recovery and returning to his same level of play.”

We interviewed Jeff Todd who is an analyst and writer for MLB Trade Rumors on his opinion on how the injury impacts Ramos’ future free agency.

“At this point, I think it’s all still up in the air,” Jeff Todd said. “The key question is whether he’ll be expected to have a realistic chance of contributing in 2017. If so, then you could imagine a one-year contract, which he could agree to in the winter or once the season starts and he progresses to a certain stage of his rehab (as, say, Justin Morneau did this year).”

Is there anymore optimistic scenarios?

“If not, I’d assume that he’ll either sign some kind of multi-year deal, perhaps featuring team options or even player opt-outs, or simply wait until he is healthy and assess from there” Todd said. “Clearly, he’s not going to command a guarantee anywhere near what he would have. It’s not a situation that we really can look to comps for, so it’s near impossible to put any numbers on it. Ramos would represent a major risk/reward gamble for any team that puts money on the table.”

This answers Don’s query on whether or not the Nationals would extend a near $17 million one-year Qualifying Offer to Ramos.

“I can’t see the Nats making him a qualifying offer at this point, because taking it would be a no-brainer (in my opinion) and a) it would be hard to get value unless you think he’ll play much of the year and b) it would interfere with the team’s ability to fill the position for the portion of the year that Ramos isn’t fit (which could be much or all of it),” Todd said in great detail.

The Nationals could still make a deal with Ramos, and an American League team still makes sense just like it did before the injury.

“I’d guess several teams would be willing to entertain creative solutions of various kinds, at guarantees that are hard to guess at,” Jeff Todd said. “He’s young, and that’s important. Plus, he has enough bat to contribute as a part-time DH in the AL and catcher is an easy position to share time with, so he’d be relatively easy to roll the dice on. I think the key questions are: what kind of arrangement will Ramos seek? and are there any complicating factors in his injury/recovery (beyond that it’s the second ACL tear)?”

That is still some encouraging news it sounds like for Ramos for the long-term.

UPDATE 9/30/16 10:45AM: Our sources are telling us that they believe there was damage to the meniscus which will require that surgery in addition to the ACL.

UPDATE 10/14/16: Surgery will be performed today by Dr. Robert Najarian



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