Phillies Stay or Go: Carlos Ruiz

Phillies Stay or Go: Carlos Ruiz
October 8, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Carlos Ruiz has been the Phillies' No. 1 starting catcher since 2007. (AP)

PHILLIES STAY OR GO?

Yesterday: Roy Halladay
Today: Carlos Ruiz
Tomorrow: Kevin Frandsen

The Phillies' first losing season since 2002 is sure to bring wholesale changes in the offseason. But who should stay and who should go? Over the next two weeks, we're asking that very question and putting players under the microscope.
 
Yesterday, we examined Roy Halladay (see story), and today we look at his reliable Phillies batterymate:
 
Carlos Ruiz
Position: Catcher
Status: Free agent; completed three-year, $8.85 million deal in 2013
 
Signature games of 2013
The month of August made Ruiz's season. Coincidentally (or not?), the latter half of the month was perhaps the Phillies' best stretch of the year, and it all started with Ryne Sandberg's first win as manager on Aug. 18. In a 3-2 win over the Dodgers, Ruiz racked up four hits — all singles — including one that put the eventual walk-off run on third with one out in the ninth. It was the Phils' first of eight wins in 11 games.
 
Three days later, Chooch was the hero again — this time in a more unfamiliar role. Down 3-2 in the ninth, Ruiz stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter with one out and doubled home the tying run. Two batters later, he scored the winning run on Michael Young's walk-off single.
 
Season as a whole
Ruiz missed the first 25 games of the season while serving a suspension for testing positive for an amphetamine. He was back for just 15 games before he hit the shelf again, this time with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss a month.
 
Given his sporadic playing time, it's understandable that it took him a while to get going. Ruiz's average didn't touch .250 until June 24, and he didn't hit his first homer until July 30 — his 47th game. The catcher went into the All-Star break batting .268/.321/.291 with just three extra-base hits (all doubles) and six RBIs in 40 games.
 
But Ruiz made his mark in August and early September. In 35 games from Aug. 1 to Sept. 14, he smacked four homers and 12 doubles with 23 RBIs and hit .350/.400/.550. Hit batting average reached a season-high .292 on Sept. 14.
 
After managing just two hits in his final 33 at-bats, Ruiz finished the season with a .268 average, 16 doubles, five homers and 37 RBIs in 92 games.
 
Stay or go?
While Ruiz may have had a down year in 2013, the biggest knock on him remains his age — he'll be 35 when the Phillies open 2014 against the Rangers on March 31. Can the Phillies afford to hand another aging player a three- or four-year deal in which they'll almost certainly be overpaying him in the final year or two of the contract?
 
Unfortunately for the Phillies, there won't be many alternative solutions on the free-agent market. Brian McCann leads a potential class that also includes Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John Buck and Dioner Navarro. McCann would be expensive and be yet another left-handed bat, while the others offer little to be excited about. And the in-house options (Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp, Sebastian Valle) aren't ready quite yet — and who's to say they ever will be?
 
Prior to this past season, Ruiz had been durable and productive. From 2010-12, he hit .303/.388/.454 while averaging 28 doubles, 10 homers and 54 RBIs over 122 games per season. He garner a few MVP votes in each of those years as well.
 
All that's been mentioned thus far is his bat, which is very good for a catcher. But, of course, Ruiz is noted for his handling of the pitching staff. Always one of Roy Halladay's favorites, Chooch backstopped a pitching staff that finished first and sixth in the majors in ERA in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
 
Considering how thin the potential market is, the club's pressing need for a consistent right-handed bat (that takes pitches!) and the fan favorite that he is, the Phillies should bring back Carlos Ruiz in 2014.
 
On Chooch...
"He is a priority just because of the position. We don't have anybody who is going to step in. ... I've talked to Carlos. He's talked to me. I think mutually we would like to continue the relationship. But again, it takes two to tango. At some point we'll get together, negotiate and see where it goes."
--Ruben Amaro Jr., Sept. 28
 
"I don't know where I'm going to be. Maybe here or somewhere else. I hope here. It's something I'm talking to my family about almost every day. I'm really happy here, but at the same time it's not in my hands. ... I hope I don't have to go through [the free-agent process]. But if nothing happens before the World Series, I'm going to see what the market is. But I hope to have something done before then."
--Carlos Ruiz, Sept. 28