JUNE 13: Ruggiano has cleared waivers, and the Mariners have outrighted him to Triple-A Tacoma, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets.
JUNE 4: The Mariners have designated outfielder Justin Ruggiano for assignment in order to clear a 25-man roster spot for backup catcher Jesus Sucre, the team announced (relayed by 710 ESPN’s Shannon Drayer, on Twitter). Seattle needed to clear a spot on the roster for a catcher after trading Welington Castillo to the Diamondbacks yesterday in the six-player Mark Trumbo trade.
The decision to designate Ruggiano is a somewhat curious one, as the veteran outfielder was acquired from the Cubs this offseason with the hope that he could form one half of a right field platoon along with Seth Smith. Ruggiano’s overall numbers don’t look particularly appealing, but he’s hit left-handed pitching well in 2015, as he has throughout his career. In 43 plate appearances versus lefties this season, Ruggiano is hitting .263/.349/.474 with a pair of homers. That slash line gels with his career marks — a .266/.331/.505 line against southpaws.
Though Ruggiano has not hit especially well as a whole this season, his .214/.321/.357 has been roughly league-average production when accounting for his pitcher-friendly home ballpark (99 wRC+, 97 OPS+). Teammates Rickie Weeks and Dustin Ackley, however, have been markedly worse performers at the dish, with Weeks hitting just .169/.273/.260 and Ackley hitting a mere .190/.231/.331. In terms of defensive value, Ruggiano is better suited to play the outfield than Weeks, who is still learning the position.
Ruggiano is earning $2.505MM this season after avoiding arbitration this winter. He’s under control through the 2016 season and will be arb-eligible once more this offseason if he accumulates a full year of service time in 2015. I’d imagine that Ruggiano could generate some interest in trades, particularly if the Mariners are willing to absorb some of the remaining salary. From a speculative standpoint, the Reds could be a fit, as they are on the lookout for corner outfield options after seeing Marlon Byrd go down with a fractured wrist earlier in the week.