It doesn't feel like so long ago that Max Ramirez was a well regarded catching prospect. Signed by the Braves out of Venezuela back in 2002 as a 17 year old international free agent, Ramirez quickly made a name for himself as a good hitting catcher and became a much sought after commidity. In 2006, the Braves traded him to Cleveland for closer Bob Wickman. A year later he was sent to Texas to bring back long time Indians star Kenny Loften.
Though his defense was roundly regarded as poor, with an arm and release that both graded out as below average along with poor defensive instincts, he continued to be a desirable commodity. This off season after being placed on waivers by Rangers he was picked up by the Red Sox (who now sport another once highly regarded Texas catching prospect behind the plate), waived again, and picked up by the Cubs. Now, he's been released.
Offensively, Ramirez has a lot of movement in his swing that tends to lead to high strikeout rates, but he has a plus eye that allows him to draw plenty of walks. When he does make contact - and he does that enough - he has solid power and can drive the ball with authority to all fields.
While I rarely mention players from other teams on this website, given the Twins hideous performance from their catchers in 2011, he becomes a worthy candidate for discussion. Overall, the Twins have managed a .317 OPS from their catchers since Joe Mauer - who's return may still be another 2-3 weeks off - went on the disabled list. For comparison, NL pitchers have posted a collective .375 mark. The primary catching option in Mauer's absence has been opening day backup Drew Butera, who has a grand total of six hits on the season.
After a brief experiment with Minor League lifer Steve Holm ended just a couple days, the team will now give former Mariner Rene Rivera a chance. The 27 year old Rivera, who last played in the Majors in 2006 and has a career MiLB OPS of .689 isn't likely to improve on that mark by a substantial margin.
The team misguidedly traded star catching prospect Wilson Ramos to the Nationals last year for reliever Matt Capps because they sought a proven closer. The move looked hideous when it was first made, and now with Mauer on the shelf somehow looks worse still. The toolsy Ramos has been phenomenal behind the plate, throwing out runners at a high clip while posting a .920 OPS.
Then this off season the team decided to move Jose Morales, a defensively challenge catcher who could at least hit a little, for reliever Paul Bargas. The team can be forgiven for the move given Morales' status as an out-of-option player, but it left them with no legitimate everyday backup in the event of a Mauer injury.
Now that the team finds itself in such a dire need of an offensive replacement, they could do worse than to give Ramirez a look.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.