Toronto Blue Jays Free Agent Target – Carlos Ruiz
Aug 30, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz (51) tags out Chicago Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro (30) during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Name: Carlos Ruiz
A late-bloomer, Carlos Ruiz has made the most of his 8-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was 27-years-old when he got his first taste of the Major Leagues in 2006, but has proven to be a fairly consistent catcher, from all perspectives, since.
Health concerns and worries about his ability to hit at the Major League level have been silenced over the years. Ruiz has appeared in 100 or more games six of the last seven seasons, putting durability questions to rest.
As for his hitting, that question has also been answered. Ruiz is a career .274 hitter with a lifetime on-base percentage of .358 and a wRC+ of 105. Power isn’t a big part of his game, despite having played his home games at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark, as he owns just 57 career home runs. However, he has shown gap power, resulting in 169 career doubles. Ruiz works around that with an ability to get on-base, with a lifetime walk rate around 10% and a BABIP of .294.
Ruiz’s true value is on the defensive side of the ball. While he has yet to receive a gold glove for his work, he is considered strong with the glove. According to FanGraphs, he ranks fifth in baseball since 2006 (minimum 5000 inning caught) with a DEF rating of 74.9, fourth in that time span in Defensive Runs Saved with 32, and third in rGFP (Good Fielding Plays Runs Saved) with 23. He is generally considered as a smart handler of pitchers and a good framer as well.
However, his statistic achievements are somewhat clouded by stimulant usage. Prior to the 2013 season, Ruiz served a 25-game ban for testing positive for the use of Adderall without a doctor’s note. A 25-game suspension only results from a second positive test, which would indicate that Ruiz had previously failed a test.
The suspension hasn’t seemed to stop prospective suitors from lining up.
Catchers that turn 35-years-old prior to Opening Day are not supposed to get this much attention on the free agent market. The general convention here is that at 35, most catchers are being replaced by younger models and are struggling to hold on to job.
That hasn’t stopped the market from opening up for Carlos Ruiz, who was the talked of the town last week at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Florida. As many as four teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, and Boston Red Sox are said to be in on the bidding for the veteran backstop. There are multiple other teams also looking for catching this winter as well.
The only one of those teams rumored to have made an offer was the Colorado Rockies, a two-year deal worth $15 million and an undisclosed option according to Troy Renck at the Denver Post. There is rumor of a 2-year, $20 million deal, which Ruiz’s agent is telling prospective suitors that he has in hand, but no team has stepped up to own that offer as of yet. Both bids are higher that the 2-year, $14 million deal that Tom Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors estimated that he would receive this winter. That said, the bidding may have risen due to the fact that Ruiz does not have a qualifying offer tied to him.
Of course, all of this begs to ask what an aging catcher coming off of a down year is really worth.
Given that Ruiz is good for about 100-110 games per season, based on his previous injury history and track record, there is a likelihood that he will need a back-up that will provide more than the every fifth day start. That fits in right along with his Steamer projection for 2014, which sees Ruiz catching just 104 games next season.
Steamer also sees Ruiz hitting for a slash line of .274/.344/.415 with a wins above replacement value of 3.0. Those numbers are a far cry better than what the Blue Jays received from incumbent starter J.P. Arencibia, who Steamer sees putting up a slash line of .216/.265/.405 and a WAR of 1.0.
Whether that is worth 2-years and $20 million to the Blue Jays is another question. Given the team’s need for pitching, Toronto would like need to move Arencibia’s contract first in order to clear up the money needed, and even then could better utilize it elsewhere. The Blue Jays would be better served to pursue Ruiz with caution and perhaps bid along the same lines as Colorado, using an extra option year to help defer initial moneys. With cheaper options available in A.J. Pierzynski and Dioner Navarro, the Blue Jays can afford to feel out the market here.