One year ago Carlos Ruiz was just about the only thing worth watching on a Phillies team that failed to make the post season for the first time since 2006. This season however is a much different story. After smashing a career high 16 HR, and hitting a career high .325 in 2012 Ruiz has seemingly come back down to earth in 2013. After serving a 25 game suspension for using Adderall, Ruiz returned to the lineup and has struggled mightily hitting just .257 with a measly 2 HR. Ruiz is 34 years old and is a free agent at the end of the year so all signs point to Ruiz suiting up for another team in 2014 right? I don’t think so.
Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote an article on Monday hinting at the fact that the Phillies could let Ruiz go, but I just don’t see that happening. Yes, Ruiz isn’t, and probably never will be the 2012 Carlos Ruiz. He is regressing at the plate, but hes still solid behind it. Ruiz isn't the ideal option, but he might be the most logical.
I do believe the Phillies will let Ruiz, who will be 35 when the season starts, hit free agency. I expect the interest in Ruiz from other teams to be lukewarm. Teams might be reluctant to pay an aging catcher whose offensive ability seems to have disappeared. I expect the Phillies to search for a new catcher, but decide the production from this years free agent crop doesn't warrant the pay check they will demand. I then expect the Phillies to sign Ruiz back because frankly there isn’t much else out there.
This year’s free agent crop of catchers is thin with the exception of Brian McCann who won’t be returning to Atlanta thanks to the emergence of Evan Gattis and a Carlos Ruiz like catcher the Braves have in the minors by the name of Christian Bethancourt. After McCann however there is a huge drop off. This year’s list, which can be found on MLBTraderumors.com, includes:
While the Phillies could very well end up signing Brian McCann, who will command a multiyear contract and big money, his left handed bat doesn’t make sense in a left handed lineup. Plain and simple, this is a really bad market if you are in need of a catcher. Ruiz however is coming off a bad year, and he is getting older, so likely the Phillies will be able to sign Ruiz for a discount price. Ruiz’ club option was picked up for this season at a $5 million dollar price tag, but with the season he is having, the Phillies may be able to sign Ruiz for half of that.
One thing that could factor into Ruiz returning to Philadelphia is his relationship with the pitchers; they love him. Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Roy Halladay have all praised Ruiz’ defense and how he calls a game. Roy Halladay of course is also scheduled to become a free agent but he would like to return next season to the Phillies and if he plays well down the stretch the two sides could reach an agreement to bring the 2 time Cy Young winner back for 2014.
This of course was never supposed to happen. When the Phillies had a fire sale during the 2012 trade deadline they acquired a young catcher from the San Francisco Giants named Tommy Joseph. Joseph leaped over Sebastian Valle on the organizational depth chart for backstops and become the heir apparent. The thought going into the 2013 season was that if all went well Joseph could possibly reach the majors this season, but that wont happen. Joseph struggled to hit AAA pitching, and then suffered a concussion in May. The concussion like symptoms reoccurred during rehab starts, and he was shut down for the season on August 8th. The concussions are so severe the Phillies staff is evaluating if they should move Joseph from behind home plate and into the field.
In a perfect world, Carlos Ruiz wouldn’t be back next season, but he is popular among the players, and a fan favorite. Coming off a down year, his asking price won’t be as much as a Jarrod Saltalamacchia and won’t be anywhere near the asking price of Brian McCann. Carlos Ruiz is a cheap, familiar option. I’m not saying it’s an ideal situation, but the Phillies appear to be in the rebuilding stage. Does it really make sense to overpay for an average, at best, catcher when you can just bring back your current one back for less than $3 million? I don’t think so.