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Carlos Ruiz Rumors
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.
On this date 25 years ago, the Dodgers' Orel Hershiser was an unanimous selection as the National League Cy Young Award winner becoming the only player to be named the Cy Young, NLCS MVP, and World Series MVP in the same season. 1988 was the benchmark in Hershiser's career highlighted by his still-standing MLB record of pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings. The "Bulldog" also set career-highs in wins (23), strikeouts (190), innings pitched (267.0), complete games (15), and shutouts (8). Here are today's news and notes from the NL West:
- The Padres appear to be set in terms of rotation depth, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. They aren't likely to target a starter this offseason unless it's a player that could sit at the top of a rotation or provide long-term value. Such a move would likely be via trade, Brock says, adding that the club's main focus will be on finding left-handed offense.
- Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Giants pitching prospect Kyle Crick, who has drawn comparisons to Matt Cain. While the 20-year-old Crick may have the highest ceiling among Giants pitching prospects, he's not likely to help the major league club in 2014, as he finished the year at High-A San Jose.
- The Los Angeles Times' Steve Dilbeck comments on a report from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal that the Dodgers are listening on Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Shopping the veteran outfielders is the right move as the club explores extensions for Hanley Ramirez and Clayton Kershaw, Dilbeck says. However, he adds that the salaries and injury histories of the three make a deal unlikely.
- The Rockies have reached out to Tim Hudson, but they will have to overpay in either dollars or years to pique his interest, according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. MLBTR's Steve Adams predicts a one-year, $9MM contract for Hudson (#31 on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list), but Renck believes the right-hander may be able to secure a two-year deal with as many as 15 teams in pursuit.
- Within the same article, Renck reports the Rockies will make an offer to free agent catcher Carlos Ruiz, but it's unclear whether they are willing to go beyond two years.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Power bats are increasingly in short supply, both on the Major League free agent market and in the talent pipeline, writes Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. That could mean big dollars for this year's few legitimate power sources, says Gammons, chief among them Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. So, is this a classic overpay situation? Maybe not, according to ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required), who pegs Napoli as one of the best values among corner infielders on the open market. Here's more from Boston …
- Assuming that Napoli declines his qualifying offer, tweets Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, the Sox will consider other players on the market rather than focusing solely on bringing him back.
- The Sox' 2014 payroll may be somewhat more constrained than appears at first glance, WEEI.com's Alex Speier explains. This is the first season in which revenue sharing funds will be clawed back from some large-market teams and returned to paying clubs — depending upon their staying below the luxury tax line. Ticking through the club's obligations, and adding some room to add salary during the course of the season, Speier figures the team can add around $32MM in 2014 salaries before the luxury tax becomes a big concern. Or, he notes, the club could shed salary from a relatively deep area like starting pitching to gain additional flexibility.
- Indeed, while last year's rash of injuries to the starting-rich Dodgers and Boston's own fateful letting-go of Bronson Arroyo provide cautionary tales, there is a reasonable argument to be made for trying to ship out a veteran arm, writes the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson. In particular, given the thin starting market and big salary demands being tossed around, the Red Sox might reap a substantial return for some of its hurlers.
- Who would the Red Sox really target in free agency? Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at several recently rumored possibilities, saying that catcher Carlos Ruiz could be a real target for GM Ben Cherington.
- Assuming Boston isn't willing to top the market for Brian McCann, another backstop option is the Reds' Ryan Hanigan, MacPherson argues. The 33-year-old appears to be expendable after Cinci signed Brayan Pena to a two-year pact, and he could be a reasonably-priced, defensively reliable partner for David Ross.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that the club has "already made offers to several players," reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Though no specific offer targets are identified in the piece, it seems that Amaro intends to act aggressively. As Zolecki notes, that is what happened back in 2011, when the Phils moved fast on Jonathan Papelbon.
One player that could be feeling the heat from Amaro is longtime Phils catcher Carlos Ruiz. Amaro said he feels there are "several candidates that could be our catcher next year," Zolecki reports. And the Philly GM also made clear that he had no interest in a prolonged dalliance with Ruiz, as occurred with Jimmy Rollins in 2011.
"There will be very little chance of bringing Chooch back" if that kind of delay takes place, Amaro told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, because the club "can't afford to miss out on other opportunities." Though Amaro indicated that he believes Ruiz is still a fit with the club, he says his front office is "perusing the landscape of catching right now."
Philly may need to make a sizeable commitment to get Ruiz to commit early. He seems to have had his fair share of interest and would be a solid fallback for teams that miss on Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or prefer a more reasonably priced alternative. Most recently, we learned that the Rockies are expected to dangle multiple years at the veteran over the coming days.
4:25pm: In addition to Ruiz, Veras and Smith, the Rockies are also pursuing Brian Wilson, Renck reports in a new article. Colorado is prioritizing power arms to serve as a safety net for Rex Brothers or in order to use Brothers in a setup role where he could match up against lefties in tough situations.
Wilson returned on a $1MM contract with the Dodgers late in the season and totaled 19 2/3 innings between the regular season and the playoffs, allowing just one run and posting a 21-to-6 K/BB ratio. Earlier today it was reported that the Rockies are also interest in Grant Balfour.
9:10am: With Matt Belisle back in the fold after both he and the Rockies exercised their half of his $4.25MM option, the Rockies are eyeing right-handers Jose Veras and Joe Smith as pieces to help fix what was the worst bullpen in the NL last season, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Perhaps more interestingly, Renck adds that the Rockies are continuing their pursuit of backstop Carlos Ruiz and plan to offer him a multiyear contract this week.
The Rockies currently have Wilin Rosario at catcher, but bringing in Ruiz would allow them to give Rosario some additional at-bats at first base and perhaps in right field, writes Renck. The team considers Ruiz to be a clear defensive upgrade over Rosario, although one would imagine that Rosario wouldn't exactly be a swift defender in the outfield should be find playing time out there (then again, neither is incumbent Michael Cuddyer).
Smith, who turns 30 next March, is likely appealing to the Rockies due to his career 57.2 percent ground-ball rate. That number dropped much closer to the league average in 2013, checking in at 49.1 percent, but Smith compensated to an extent by topping his career rates in strikeouts (7.7 K/9) and walks (3.2 BB/9). Overall, his ERA sat at 2.29 in 63 innings of work the the Indians.
The 33-year-old Veras posted a career-best 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 41.2 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers. Detroit made the surprising decision to buy out his club option last week, making an eighth team in nine seasons a very real possibility for Veras.
The Rockies' 4.23 bullpen ERA in 2013 was the worst in the National League and the third-worst in all of Major League Baseball. The team has already lost former closer Rafael Betancourt to Tommy John surgery, and last offseason's acquisition of Wilton Lopez didn't work as planned, as the former Astro pitched to a 4.06 ERA with a career-low 5.7 K/9 rate in 75 1/3 innings. Lopez figures to return along with Belisle, Adam Ottavino and likely closer Rex Brothers.