Sometimes, all it takes is a rumor or two to light a fire in a baseball player’s belly to push them to be better. Maybe that’s what is motivating Marlins’ closer AJ Ramos in spring training. Ramos saved 40 games last season, but that did not stop the team from shopping for a late Christmas present in the form of a top-tier closer – namely Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen.
Both players signed elsewhere, which means Ramos comes to Jupiter, Florida with the closer’s role in his hip pocket. If you ask Ramos, it’s not enough, and he wants more. A driven closer could mean everything to a team that has changed its bullpen and does not have a dominant starter in its rotation.
Miami offered each free agent closer (Chapman and Jansen) more than $80 million, only to come up short. Chapman opted to sign with the Yankees, and Jansen returned to the Dodgers.
The courtships of the two top-tiered closers had Ramos wondering if he would be Miami's closer in 2017, or even with the team.
"I didn't think about it too much, but I'm human," Ramos said via MLB.com. "I am going to think about it, but I tried to block it out as much as possible to get ready."
Even though the Marlins missed out on two elite free agents, they have a more than capable fallback plan in Ramos, who saved 40 of 43 chances last year and had a 2.81 ERA. The right-hander also is a bargain, making $6.55 million this year.
With a loaded pen and the return of David Phelps to be the last line of support to Ramos in his role, this could be a very effective season in south Florida.
The 30-year-old native of Lubbock, TX was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 21st round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft out of Texas Tech University.
Ramos was called up to the majors for the first time on September 4, 2012. He was named the Marlins closer on May 19, 2015. He was named an All-Star on July 5, 2016.
Ramos knows the Marlins have been trying to improve their pitching staff since the middle of last season, but the team has not been as successful as they would like. They brought in Fernando Rodney before the All-Star break, but he did not re-sign with the team. Ramos, through everything, has focused on being the best pitcher he can be for the organization.
"It's business," Ramos said. "They're trying to make the team the best they possibly can. Our bullpen is awesome now, but having one of those guys is obviously a plus. They're superstars, for good reason. That would have made the team better. You can't get mad at that. They're trying to win. That's how I took it, they're trying to win ballgames."