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Carlos Ruiz Rumors
The Blue Jays discussed a trade for Matt Kemp with the Dodgers at the GM meetings, reports Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca. Those discussions appear to have gone nowhere, but Davidi says they are indicative of a trend throughout MLB — teams are entertaining ideas of big trades (like the recent Prince Fielder / Ian Kinsler blockbuster) rather than diving into a free agent market that's become increasingly expensive. Here are more notes from around the East divisions.
- The Nationals are hunting for a starting pitcher, but they don't want to sacrifice their 2014 first-round draft pick (no. 20 overall) in the process, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. That could make Matt Garza or Ricky Nolasco, who did not receive qualifying offers because they were traded in-season, more attractive options than Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana or Hiroki Kuroda.
- The Marlins have made contact with free agent infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. The Marlins are looking for a third baseman, and Betancourt played 59 games there in 2013, a season in which he hit .212/.240/.355. One would think that the Marlins would be interested only on a minor-league deal, though it's worth noting that Betancourt has received near-regular playing time for most of his career despite not posting an on-base percentage above .300 since 2007.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledges the risk involved in signing soon-to-be-35-year-old catcher Carlos Ruiz to a three-year deal, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury writes. "Clearly this is a commitment that will be scrutinized," Amaro says. "Is it a risk to put three years into a catcher at this stage of his career? It can be, yes. But I think every signing is a risk and we hope that he remains productive throughout the three years and perhaps more." Ruiz hit .268/.320/.368 in a weak offensive season in 2013.
The Phillies had a hole to fill at catcher, and they've filled it with the most familiar face possible. The Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. officially announced today that Carlos Ruiz has re-signed with the team on a three-year, $26MM contract that contains a club option for a fourth season.
Ruiz will reportedly earn $8.5MM annually, and the club option was reported to be worth $4.5MM with a $500K buyout. The longtime Phillie can also earn an additional $500K each season by appearing in more than 125 games behind the plate. He is able to block trades to four teams.
Ruiz, also known as "Chooch," is represented by agent Marc Kligman. The 34-year-old began the season with a 25-game suspension for amphetamine usage and was limited by a hamstring injury upon his return. As such, the .268/.320/.368 batting line produced by Ruiz doesn't tell the whole story of his season. Over the season's final two months, the Panamanian backstop slashed .288/.343/.444.
Ruiz caught just 25 percent of runners attempting to steal against him last season — an area in which he's been unable to consistently post an above-average mark throughout his career. Fangraphs estimates that he saved 1.8 runs blocking pitches in the dirt, though there have been studies done on pitch framing by catchers that indicate he is below-average in that department.
Ruiz's $26MM guarantee eclipses the two-year deal that MLBTR's Tim Dierkes projected in his free agent profile. Ruiz reportedly had offers in the two-year $15-20MM range, and Kligman looks wise to have waited for a three-year offer to trump those proposals.
At season's end, Ruiz told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Ryan Lawrence that he hoped to spend his entire career with the Phillies, and he may have the opportunity to do just that with this deal, as it will run through his age-37 season with an option for his age-38 campaign. In parts of eight big league seasons with the Phils, Ruiz is a .274/.358/.412 hitter with 57 home runs.
With Ruiz off the market, the top remaining free agent catchers are Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski. Ruiz's surprising guarantee is good news for Saltalamacchia and Pierzynski in particular, as they, like Ruiz, are in a lower tier than McCann.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that Ruiz would re-sign with the Phillies (on Twitter). Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the deal was for three years and $26MM with a club option (Twitter links). ESPN's Jayson Stark provided the financial details and reported the limited no-trade clause (on Twitter), and Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweeted the incentives.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
After looking at the Red Sox earlier this evening, let's check out the rest of the American League East..
- General Manager Alex Anthopoulos says the Blue Jays haven’t had recent talks with Josh Johnson and gets the impression that he has better options elsewhere, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Earlier today it was reported that Johnson is down to three or four teams with the Pirates among the finalists and Tim Dierkes learned that all of those clubs are in the National League.
- Nick Markakis is among the Orioles in need of a better 2014 campaign, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Markakis was plagued with injuries in 2012 and struggled in 2013, even though he played a full season. If he's going to turn things around, 2014 – his walk year – might be the time to do it.
- Anthopoulos acknowledged that he had dialogue with Carlos Ruiz's agent and "liked the player" in an interview on Sportsnet 590, BN-S tweets. The Phillies re-signed Ruiz to a three-year, $26MM deal earlier this week.
- Yankees president Randy Levine denied conspiring with MLB to run Alex Rodriguez out of the game or to personally benefit financially if his 211-game suspension is upheld, a source familiar with his testimony told Wallace Matthews and Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (video link) looks at Matt Wieters' future with the Orioles.
Earlier today it was reported that the Phillies have re-signed Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26MM contract. The deal is significantly costlier than many pundits predicted, so let's check in with some reactions and related news…
- ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that the Red Sox were in on Ruiz until the very end, which is what caused Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to guarantee the third year and give a slight boost in terms of average annual value (Twitter link).
- The Rockies topped out at two years and $15MM plus a club option for the third year, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. (on Twitter). Ruiz's priority was to secure a three year deal. Renck praises agent Marc Kligman for securing a larger guarantee than Russell Martin.
- Chooch's deal sets the bar even higher for free agent backstops, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. BN-S adds that the three-year, $26MM pact makes Martin’s two-year, $17MM contract with the Pirates look even more team-friendly.
- ESPN's Keith Law feels that (Insider subscription required and recommended) "giving a 35-year-old catcher with platoon problems who's coming off a PED suspension a three-year deal is absolute lunacy." The Phillies continue to create a bigger mess for themselves going forward, writes Law.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs takes the opposite stance from Law, opining that the deal isn't nearly as bad for the Phillies as most initial reactions make it out to be. Cameron points out that most free agent contracts at this point are intended to deliver value up front before declining at the end, and Ruiz's floor is roughly that of a 2 WAR player in 2014, which is a bargain at $8.5MM.
- ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett discusses the Ruiz deal with B.B. Abbott, Brian McCann's agent. “There are certainly teams that are probably looking at the deal and think it has to impact what they’re going to do in this market,” Abbott said. “It doesn’t change what we think of him. But it’s significant in that another catcher is off the market. It’s another puzzle piece that isn’t out there.” Abbott also noted that he is willing to be patient to find a good deal for McCann.
- MLBTR's own Tim Dierkes called the contract "a clear win" for Ruiz and Kligman "and an offer they were unlikely to beat if they waited." While Dierkes is surprised at the size of Ruiz's contract, the deal is a reasonable one for the Phillies.
The Phillies made an aggressive strike today, agreeing to a three-year, $26MM contract with catcher Carlos Ruiz. From the point of view of Ruiz and agent Marc Kligman, this is a clear win and an offer they were unlikely to beat if they waited. I felt that with Ruiz turning 35 in January, a third guaranteed year was unattainable unless they made a major sacrifice on average annual value. However, the $8.67MM AAV is strong and in line with what some thought Ruiz might get on a two-year deal. I am surprised to see Ruiz top Russell Martin's deal from last winter in both years and AAV, especially since Martin was five years younger and coming off a better year. It's too early to say whether the Ruiz contract is an anomaly, a trend toward rising salaries for catchers, or even a sign that most of the top free agents will beat expectations.
The contract is acceptable for the Phillies in terms of dollars per wins above replacement, as Ruiz is still at least an average regular. Dollars per WAR isn't the right metric on which to judge a free agent contract, however, especially since the free agent market generally doesn't pay full price for catchers. How far beyond the runner-up did the Phillies go? Ideally, you'd only go a little bit beyond the runner-up, especially with a player who had a strong preference to remain in Philadelphia. According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Phillies guaranteed the third year and hiked the AAV to get the deal done with Ruiz. If the Phillies were the only team willing to guarantee three years, and it does seem that way, then a hardline stance would have been with a reduced AAV, perhaps around $7.5MM. Something like three years and $23MM was probably possible, which would have made the third year less painful since Ruiz might have approached $20MM on a two-year offer from the Red Sox, Rockies, Blue Jays, or Yankees eventually.
It's easy to say Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. should have played hardball with Ruiz to save $3-4MM, and that might have been possible. Still, Ruiz is worth more to the Phillies because of his familiarity with their pitching staff, and Amaro would have faced limited alternatives had he tried to wait Ruiz out. Brian McCann would have required a much larger commitment, and it appears Jarrod Saltalamacchia will get more than $30MM. McCann, Saltalamacchia, and A.J. Pierzynski all bat left-handed, and the Phillies likely sought a right-handed bat for lineup balance even after signing Marlon Byrd. That basically leaves Dioner Navarro, a switch-hitter who hasn't been a regular since 2009. The trade market is even more questionable, and the Phillies don't have good internal options at catcher. The Phillies paid a premium to lock up Ruiz this early in the offseason, but the contract is still acceptable. The Winter Meetings are still three weeks away, and Amaro has already addressed two major holes in his lineup.
Here are some notes out of Philadelphia…
- The Phillies are willing to give a setup man a three-year contract, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan reports (via Twitter). The club is looking hard for setup help and Edward Mujica is one of the Phillies' targets. Mujica worked in middle relief before stepping up as the Cardinals' closer for most of 2013. MLBTR's Steve Adams projected Mujica would find a three-year, $21MM deal in free agency but you'd think that number would be a bit less in this case since the Phils wouldn't be using him as a closer. Relievers Joaquin Benoit and Joe Smith have also been linked to the Phillies this winter.
- "A Phillies-[Carlos] Ruiz reunion still seems likely," MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes. Zolecki wonders if it was the Phillies who made Ruiz the two-year, $20MM offer the catcher reportedly has on the table. The Phils are known to have put early offers out to several free agents already and GM Ruben Amaro recently made a point of saying that the team wouldn't wait long for Ruiz to decide.
- Amaro may be on the hot seat if the team disappoints again but Amaro tells Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he isn't putting a priority on short-term success to save his job at the expense of the team's future. "My job, our job, is to be contenders every year….That's why young players are important to us. That's why keeping that depth is important to us," Amaro said.
- Marlon Byrd jumped when the Phillies made him a two-year, $16MM offer, the outfielder told reporters (including CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury). “I didn’t want to wait around,” Byrd said. “The Phillies were aggressive with an amazing offer. I didn’t want to wait to see how much money I could get. I have friends on that team, my wife (Andrea) is from there. It’s definitely a blessing.”
- Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer isn't a fan of the Byrd signing, believing that the Phillies made too big a commitment to a player with a PED suspension on his record and whose career seemed virtually over less than a year ago.
WEDNESDAY, 3:28pm: The Rockies have moved on from Ruiz and have shifted their attention towards finding a closer, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
TUESDAY, 4:02pm: The Rockies offered Ruiz a two-year deal worth approximately $15MM with a club option for a third year on Monday night, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. The Rockies won't go to $20MM, however, and they're prepared to move on to the outfield/first base market if they can't strike a deal with Ruiz. It remains to be seen if Ruiz will ultimately top Russell Martin's two-year, $17MM deal from last winter.
2:57pm: Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter) hears that the Rockies are willing to do a two-year deal with an option. However, it would appear that the Rockies were not the team to offer $20MM over two years as Sherman reports (link) that they were told about the offer from Ruiz's representatives. If that's really Ruiz's asking price, then the Rockies will pass.
2:40pm: Ruiz's agent has told at least one suitor that his client has a two-year, $20MM offer on the table, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Ruiz earned $5MM last season with the Phillies.
2:13pm: The Rockies are in the mix for veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz and they have made an offer to him in the last 48 hours, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. They'll have their work cut out for them, however, as the Phillies, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are also said to be among the teams with interest.
Renck writes that the Rockies may have to overpay to get the backstop, but they're more likely to overpay in cash than in contract length. If the Rockies landed Ruiz, current catcher Wilin Rosario would likely shift to right field, while also seeing time at first base and catcher. Even though he got off to a slow start in 213 after missing time due to a suspension for Adderall, over the last two months of the season he looked more like his old self.
Denard Span was surprised to hear his name come up again in trade rumors, MLB.com's Bill Ladson writes. Span has been with the Nationals less than a year, having arrived from Minnesota in a trade for prospect Alex Meyer last November 29. "My first reaction was, 'Here we go again,'" says Span. "I dealt with trade rumors the last two years. It surprised me because I've been in Washington for one year. The guys in Washington have been trying to get me for a while, and to hear rumors this quick after one year is surprising." Span hit .279/.327/.380 in his first year in Washington, a bit below his career averages. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Carlos Ruiz might be a good fit with the Red Sox, suggests FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal hears that one team has already offered Ruiz somewhere in the vicinity of two years and $20MM, and he thinks that team could be the Red Sox. By signing Ruiz rather than Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston would avoid committing to a contract of more than two years. Signing a catcher for three years or more might not be ideal, with prospects Blake Swihart and/or Christian Vazquez potentially ready to help in the next couple years.
- Marlon Byrd's deal with the Phillies signals how difficult it will be for the Mets to find power this offseason, Newsday's Marc Carig writes. Byrd's contract, which could balloon to $24MM through 2016 if he can stay on the field, followed in the footsteps of Jose Dariel Abreu's $68MM deal with the White Sox, as well as Hunter Pence's $90MM contract with the Giants. Carig notes, though, that the frenzy for power hitters could be beneficial to the Mets in one respect — Lucas Duda and Ike Davis might be able to fetch a decent return on the trade market, despite their deficiencies.
Here's the latest on the Blue Jays, who look set for another busy offseason…
- The Jays have made inquiries about such catchers as Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi reports. Davidi also suspects Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has checked in on Brian McCann, to boot.
- The Jays were known to be looking to improve behind the plate this winter and current catcher J.P. Arencibia has drawn trade interest from other teams. Davidi says there is some feeling that Arencibia has too much "accumulated baggage" in Toronto and might not reach his potential in a Blue Jay uniform. Arencibia is projected to earn $2.8MM as a first-time arbitration eligible player this winter and the Jays would certainly prefer getting something back for him in a trade than simply non-tendering him.
- Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson and Hiroki Kuroda have all received calls from the Blue Jays, Davidi reports, noting that Hudson and Kuroda probably don't have any mutual interest. Hudson is being courted by over 10 teams while Kuroda seems to be set on either re-signing with the Yankees, returning to pitch in Japan or retiring.
- Also from Davidi, Munenori Kawasaki could sign a new minor league deal with the Jays that would pay him more than the $600K base salary he earned last season.
- In another piece from Davidi, Melky Cabrera is looking much healthier and fit after a tumor was surgically removed from his spine, Anthopoulos said. Cabrera looks to be the Jays' everyday choice in left field, though obviously that could change if he suffers a setback in his rehabilitation.
- Rajai Davis is likely to leave the Jays for a team that can offer him more playing time, Davidi reports. The club's hope is that Anthony Gose or Moises Sierra can be a low-cost replacement for Davis as a backup outfielder.
- Sierra is out of options and "is a prime candidate to be shopped," MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes. Brad Lincoln could also be part of a trade package, as Chisholm breaks down possible scenarios for the Jays' nine out-of-options players.
Here's the latest from the City of Brotherly Love…
- The Phillies intend to avoid more expensive free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann in favor of "mid-level" free agents, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury reports. The Phillies are wary of how much it would cost to sign Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson even though they like all three players.
- Also from Salisbury, the Phillies have discussed signing Franklin Gutierrez, Marlon Byrd, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Smith and Bronson Arroyo.
- GM Ruben Amaro told reporters (including Salisbury) that the team could wait to see what kind of a market there is for Roy Halladay's services before deciding whether or not to pursue the former Cy Young Award winner. “We’re keeping our eyes open on him. We’re not sure how the market is going to develop for him. But we haven’t ruled out bringing him back," Amaro said.
- The Phillies have "long-standing interest" in Mike Morse and see Morse as "a potential Jayson Werth-like late bloomer," CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman writes. Despite this interest, Morse could just be a backup plan for the Phillies if they can't sign a more higher-profile hitter.
- Carlos Ruiz could make a decision about his next contract soon, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter link). We heard earlier this week that the Phillies wanted a quick decision from Ruiz so they could figure out their catching situation.
- If Ruiz doesn't re-sign, Morosi tweets that John Buck could be a more realistic backup plan for the Phillies than A.J. Pierzynski. Not only would Buck be cheaper, Philadelphia is in need of right-handed bats.
- Trading Domonic Brown and bringing back Ryan Madson are two of the topics addressed by MLB.com's Todd Zolecki as part of a Phillies-centric reader mailbag.