The Phillies locked up one 35-year-old last week when they signed Chase Utley to a two-year extension with three vesting options, but they appear set to let Carlos Ruiz test the open market, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News.
Ruiz is hitting .257/.307/.322 with a pair of homers in 203 plate appearances this season. His playing time has been limited by a 25-game suspension he served after testing positive for amphetamines and a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list for a month. His 2013 numbers are clearly a far cry from the .325/.394/.540 batting line and 16 homers he posted in 2012.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Lawrence that catching will be one of his top priorities this offseason, if not his No. 1 priority:
"Catching is going to a very big priority for us - maybe the biggest. There are some players out there. But there's not a lot of catching in the industry. It's going to be a tough decision for us. We might have to look to try to acquire it via trade. Or we could be looking right here at Chooch [Ruiz]."
Ruiz voiced his desire to stay in Philadelphia to Lawrence, calling it his home. He is earning $5MM in 2013 after the club exercised an option at the end of his three-year, $8.85MM extension from the 2010-11 offseason.
As Lawrence notes, Brian McCann will headline this year's crop of free agent catchers. While he would represent a significant upgrade behind the dish, Lawrence writes that McCann is a tough fit in Philadelphia because he is a left-handed bat. The Phillies will routinely deploy Utley, Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard, Ben Revere and Cody Asche in 2014, and adding McCann to that mix would give the Phils six lefties in their everyday lineup.
Injuries to top Phillies prospect Tommy Joseph have increased the need for the team to acquire catching, as Joseph won't be ready for the Majors next spring. He hit just .179/.229/.285 and battled persistent concussion-like symptoms. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out last week, Joseph has had three concussions in his career and may ultimately be forced to change positions.