TODAY: The Nationals have formally announced the deal, confirming it’s an eight-year contract with a pair of club options for 2031 and 2032. The full financial breakdown isn’t known, but Barry Svrluga (Twitter link) reports that the deal is somewhat front-loaded. Ruiz will receive a signing bonus, and he’ll earn $7MM in 2028, and $9MM in each of the 2029 and 2030 seasons. The second year of the extension also “has a higher salary than he would normally receive in a last pre-arb year.”
MARCH 10: The Nationals are in agreement with 24-year-old backstop Keibert Ruiz on an eight-year contract extension that guarantees $50MM, as first reported by Wow Deportes (Twitter link). Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post (Twitter link) reports that the contract also contains two club options. The Nationals are expected to formally announce the deal tomorrow, writes Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com. Ruiz is an Octagon client.
It’s a long-term commitment from the rebuilding club to a player they consider the franchise catcher. Washington acquired the switch-hitting Ruiz at the 2021 trade deadline as part of the blockbuster that sent Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to the Dodgers. Ruiz and starter Josiah Gray headlined a four-player return. Both were upper level prospects and Ruiz would get a look as Washington’s primary backstop by the end of the ’21 campaign.
After playing in 23 games down the stretch, Ruiz got the nod as the Opening Day catcher last season. He played in 112 games and tallied 433 plate appearances, though his season was cut short when he had to be hospitalized after he was hit in the groin area by a foul ball. Before that unfortunate conclusion, Ruiz hit .251/.313/.360 in his first full season at the big league level. That offense was a little better than that of the average catcher, with the league receiving a .228/.295/.368 line from the position.
Ruiz didn’t hit for a ton of power, only connecting on seven home runs. He drew walks in a modest 6.9% of his trips to the dish. Ruiz demonstrated excellent pure contact skills, though, striking out in fewer than 12% of his plate appearances while putting the bat on the ball with 86.3% of his swings. Only Blue Jays star Alejandro Kirk showed comparable contact skills at the position.
Putting the ball in play has been Ruiz’s calling card throughout his professional career. The Venezuela native appeared among top prospect lists for a few seasons during his time in the Los Angeles farm system. Evaluators have long lauded his hit tool, though reviews on his power upside and defensive acumen were more middling.
According to public metrics, Ruiz’s defensive performance as a rookie was mixed. Statcast pegged him as a slightly below-average pitch framer. He rated positively for his ability to keep the ball in front of him, though. Statcast estimated he blocked five more pitches than average over the course of 865 innings. His four passed balls were manageable. He did a solid job controlling the running game, throwing out 28.2% of attempted basestealers (more than three percentage higher than the league mark).
While Ruiz isn’t a finished product, his rookie season more or less fell in line with his longstanding prospect profile. He proved his elite contact skills can translate against big league pitching and adequately managed things defensively. The Nats are surely hopeful he’ll tap into a little more extra-base impact over time. He’d connected on 21 home runs in 72 Triple-A contests in 2021, and while that was surely aided by a favorable offensive environment, it at least hints at double-digit homer potential for Ruiz at the MLB level.
Ruiz had between one and two years of service time. He wouldn’t have been eligible for arbitration until after the 2024 campaign and wasn’t headed to free agency until the 2027-28 offseason. This deal forecloses any chance he’ll go through arbitration and buys out at least three free agent years. If the club were to exercise both options, they’d extend their window of control by five seasons on a deal that could reach a decade in length.
It’s technically the third-largest guarantee for a player in that service bracket. Ke’Bryan Hayes holds the official record with last spring’s eight-year, $70MM extension with the Pirates. Andrelton Simmons secured $58MM over seven seasons on a 2014 extension with the Braves. Michael Harris signed an eight-year, $72MM deal with Atlanta last summer that, for all intents and purposes, also fits into the service group. Harris technically had less than a year of service at the time of his deal, though he was all but certain to finish in the top two in Rookie of the Year balloting and secure a full service year by the time he signed in August.
Ruiz’s guarantee checks in a fair bit south of the Hayes and Harris contracts, though one could argue the latter two players were safer bets. Harris and Hayes are excellent defenders and had produced a little more offensively than Ruiz has to date, even if each comes with some questions about their overall impact potential at the plate. Early-career extensions for catchers haven’t been especially common; Ruiz becomes the first backstop with less than three years of service to sign an extension since Roberto Pérez in April 2017.
In exchange for upfront security, Ruiz concedes some long-term earning potential. That’s the case in every early-career extension of this ilk, though the potential ten-year term makes it particularly true in this instance. If Washington exercises both options, Ruiz wouldn’t get to free agency until leading into his age-34 campaign. Had he proceeded year-by-year through arbitration, he’d have first qualified for free agency at age 29.
Of course, doing so would’ve entailed the risk of injuries or underperformance derailing his career. Ruiz wasn’t a high-profile amateur signee, only signing for $140K back in 2014. It’s easy to understand the appeal of averting risk and securing the first life-changing payday of his career.
The Nationals, meanwhile, lock in a core player whose aging curve aligns with when the club should be more equipped to contend. They’re in for another non-competitive season in 2023 and look hard-pressed to compete by next year either. Ruiz is now locked in for a few years into the 2030’s, though, and the club obviously anticipates having plenty of chances to compete for a playoff spot in the medium to long-term future.
The contract’s financial breakdown hasn’t yet been reported. The deal has an average annual value of $6.25MM that’ll count evenly against the luxury tax ledger for its duration. That’s not a concern in the short term; Washington’s projected 2023 payroll is more than $100MM south of this year’s threshold. The organization has paid the CBT in years past, however, so it’s not out of the question they’ll again push towards that threshold a few years down the line if the team’s competitive window comes clearer into view. The ongoing uncertainty about the Lerner family’s ownership plans clouds the picture, though ownership is clearly at least willing to sign off on future-oriented moves of this nature.
Washington will continue to audition younger players to hopefully join Ruiz in the core over the next couple seasons. Gray, shortstop CJ Abrams, left-hander MacKenzie Gore and yet-to-debut prospects like James Wood and Robert Hassell have joined the organization in deadline blockbusters. Right-hander Cade Cavalli is a former first-round pick and a highly-regarded pitching prospect. Not everyone in that group will find success, of course, but there’s now no shortage of intriguing players who will try to establish themselves at Nationals Park over the coming seasons.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
I mean, Wow Deportes!
That came out of nowhere.
Ruiz and Garcia recently ditched Boras.. There were breadcrumbs extension talks were the reason.
deGrom Texas Ranger
Where did you come from, where did you go?
$50 mil max? That could be a steal long term
$50M is the minimum he’ll make. There’s also a couple of option years. Still a good deal though, you’re right…
He plays a premium position, is young, slated to get better and has good contact bat-to-ball skills, yet will make less than Joey Gallo and his .160 BA.
It is an absolute steal.
Gallo will have made $23 mill after this season. Ruiz is has now guaranteed himself more than double that having played less than a full season. I see the point but Gallo is a horrible comparison.
“Horrible comparison” is a huge stretch. It’s just a matter of who would you rather have? Gallo at $11M or Ruiz at $6.25M? Or how about Ruiz at $11M for one year?
You already know what you’ll get from Gallo whereas Ruiz is a younger, more optimistic flier. I don’t get how the Twins were willing to pay $11M. It feels like they bid against themselves.
Gallo will have made $33.6 million after this year.
I should have been more clear. I meant for this year only,
50 million is Hella light for a catcher with a hit tool of his
I dont even care if this deal works out. This is what I’ve wanted the Nats to start doing for YEARS. Lock up the young guys. If it doesn’t work, its not a huge hit. Pros outweigh the cons by a longgggg way.
He already proved a league average catcher his rookie year which justifies the AAV. More room with the bat to grow
I know complete details will arrive eventually, but wondering based on the initial tweets if this is a six-year contract with two club options, making it potentially an eight-year deal, or is this an eight-year deal, with two club options that could take it to 10 years? The two club options, according to Svrluga, are what could bring it to $50MM, so I’m curious if they effectively bought out all his useful years as a catcher with a potential 10-year deal.
It’s 50/8 + 2 club options
Finally! It’s been awful watching the Braves swing deals like this and wondering why the hell we aren’t doing the same. Hopefully it’s the start of a trend and not an outlier…
I suspect we’ll see even more teams try to lock up their younger players, including even big-market teams. In fact, the latter should be even more interested as a way to try and limit their exposure to the luxury tax thresholds.
Good deal for both sides. His bat should improve as he develops more.
CJ Abrams could be the next player for the Nats to try to extend. Ideally the team would probably want to see him play another season but that comes at a cost. And obviously it takes both sides to agree.
I mean, i guess why not? Could turn out to be one of the better bargain contracts in Baseball
Even if this is what they get for the life of the contract, it’s a steal
Hoping the Orioles extend Adley sometime soon. 10 years/$240M-$250M range sounds appropriate (plus an option or two maybe). JTR has the highest AAV ever for a catcher at $23.5M. A deal like this would make Adley the highest AAV receiver in history. He’s worth the risk. The O’s need to lock this dude up long-term, plus Adley is already 25 years old. He shouldn’t wait until he’s 30/31 to go free agent.
deGrom Texas Ranger
That is a terrible idea. I know you think it’s “only” 25 million, but he is free 2 more seasons and has arb 3 seasons (if his RoY finish gers him an extra year of service time). If he were to make 50 million those 3 years, that’s 200 million for 5 extra years maybe. Don’t try to back justify this statement. It’s just poorly thought out. If he has 6 more seasons and the RoY thing doesn’t give him extra service time, that’s even worse. Really think about service time here. It annoys me how people have such ignorant takes on everything. Now, if you want to say he is worth 40 million a year, that may be true, but you are taking on way too much risk and would probably be better off going for Judge at that AAV instead. I love the guy. Maybe, he may be worth 30-35 in his free agent years if he has 2 more good seasons. However, extensions are meant to meet in the middle, not to set the player for life, while the team takes on all the risk. Think of all the guys like Matt Moore, Martin Perez, Derek Holland, Jon Singleton, Matt Harrison, Evan White, etc. It’s not bad to do what the Nats did with Ruiz, but bigger risks require way way way bigger rewards, not paying above market value at best. The guy wouldn’t even make that amount on the free agent market today. Why is it that Suzuki/Darvish/Tanaka/Senga and all these others are getting nothing like it? Because minor league numbers and foreign numbers make players prospects and MLB numbers make them established stars
The Giants locked up Posey after a couple of seasons at an average of $18.5M and that was ten years ago. Price of players has gone up significantly since then. Adley is a special player and is already a better defender than Posey. Dude is a legit budding superstar to build a franchise around. He’s a great investment. And a smart one. It’s not like I’m advocating for spending nearly a billion dollars on Semien, Seager, and de Grom just to be middling. Now THAT would be foolish spending…
deGrom Texas Ranger
See… this is what happens when you let a GM from a fake college (Cornell) manage. Semien is a waste of money. Seager sells seats, and so will deGrom. Posey won an MVP. Deserved or not? That’s a different question. The Rangers pay deGrom 37 million, while Verlander and Scherzer get 43 million. They are all overpaid. That still doesn’t take away from how bad the idea is to blow your payroll on a guy like that. There is a reason teams draft. Teams like Texas can’t develop, so they either have to rebuild or blow money. The Orioles have so many top prospects who are cheap for 6 years. This is still the worst idea I have heard all year. Ad hominem just covers up a poor argument. Nobody with less than a year of service is worth 40 million in free agency. That’s a terrible idea, and you can keep thinking what you want. Texas has nothing to do with giving albatross contracts to mere prospects with 5 years of control.
if three dudes are all making around the same with the same degree of dominance… is it really overpaid? Relative to who?
You get “annoyed” by an anonymous stranger having an opinion you think is wrong? That is weird.
It’s smart to lock up a player like Adley. A catcher is the quarterback of a team and, if you’ve got a good one, the FO should give him an extension. With this deal, it seems like the Nats are confident Ruiz is the right guy to handle the pitching staff.
deGrom Texas Ranger
The money is clearly the deciding factor. Anyone would be willing to get extended. It’s certainly a matter of specifics. Everyone has a price (in any situation).
A pitching staff is the QB of a baseball team. A catcher is the center of a baseball team. Responsible for protecting the QB and making him look better. Both C positions are under appreciated. But you cannot win with a bad QB/pitching staff, you can win with an adequate C in either sport. The C doesn’t need to be all-star in either, but needs to be able to get the job done well. If they’re bad, so is the team.
Marinararivera + Tony Plush
It would be smart to lock up Adley ON THE RIGHT CONDITIONS.10 years 240 million? Non sense, the guy has yet to play a full mlb season. I believe in him and believe that he can be the best catcher in baseball at some point. However you are only getting 3 or 4 seasons of extra control. If you can get him at Sean Murphy price do it! If you can get him at Ruiz price even better. (Extremely unlikely). Otherwise I’d wait to see a full season of play before offering up that type of money. I do think a deal will be in the cards for Baltimore at some point, Adley seems like the type of nice kid who will take a discount if he likes the team.
By the time the team loses control he’ll be over 30. Why guarantee so much? Absolutely insane. Makes no sense whatsoever. They have nothing to gain paying him that much. Say he’s a free agent 5 years from now, how much is he going to go for?
deGrom Texas Ranger
The Corbin Carroll extension ought to debunk this extreme idea that somehow this guy should get more than his free agent value. Even that one is an overpay, but these two are comparable players.
10 years/$240M-$250M range sounds appropriate (plus an option or two maybe).
Probably about the best prospect I’ve ever seen, but that’s too much. Let’s say it cost $10-15-20 for his 3 arb years. Then you’re talking about $200M for the four remaining years.
Catchers have too much injury risk for that. As good as Mauer was, he only had 6 seasons with 100 games caught. There is a decent likelihood he is no longer catching when that last $200M/4 kicks in.
Congrats to Keibert. Would have never got this with the dodgers.
The Dodgers wouldn’t have had to. They have a slew of catchers in their system behind Will Smith.
Great deal. Great catcher. Great looking. Great team. Great place. Great day. Great lies. Great help. Great please. Great help.
How was this guy the dodgers #1 prospect? Bat first catcher with no power? Really? And the other dude in that deal, Josiah Gray, led the majors in both walks and HR’s given up last year. Lesson: Don’t trade with the Dodgers!
Yeah Yordan Álvarez has been a total bust for the Astros
Pirates seem happy with Cruz for 2 months of a struggling setup arm.
Both of them have a COMBINED 2 seasons worth of service time. Truly premature to write them both off this soon
They watched Foolish Bailey 5 hitters I like for 2023 video
Made similar comment my bad too lazy to read hahap
This could end up being $1 million per home run over the course of the contract!
could be worse … could be 2M per plate appearance …. damn you Lowrie … 20M for 1 walk in 2 years.
I like this deal and the mindset shown by the Nat’s front office. I like this team more than most people seem to. I expect this rebuild to bear fruit sooner than expected.
The Saber-toothed Superfife
Two birds in the hand are better than one in the bush.
What is the best bird/hand vs bird/bush ratio one can expect?
Call me crazy, but I’ll take the bush over the hand every time I can get it.
The Saber-toothed Superfife
It’s about birds. An when preacher says, “Put your hand in her hand”, he’s not giggling like guys at Gigis’…..
deGrom Texas Ranger
Kyle Bird and Matt Bush – Of those two, I’d much rather take the Bush over the Bird, but that’s just me.
I like it. It means Ruiz will still be there when some of the younger prospects are ready to contribute.
In what year will the Nationals be good again?
When do Corbin and Strasburg become free agents?
I think that depends on two things:
1) A favorable settlement of the MASN lawsuit and subsequent team sale.
2) Successful development of young pitchers. The Nats have simply never managed develop young pitchers. If they make progress with the the young arms currently assembled and begin to acquire and develop more pitching, I believe they can approach .500 next season.
What a deal for Washington! Even if he’s a below .700 hitter for the rest of that contract (possible but probably unlikely), his improving defense and contact skills, plus the premium for serviceable catchers, should make this very solid at $6.25M/year. And who knows, since he’s still so young, his potential could make this one of the best contracts in baseball.
This deal is only bad in one situation most likely. That Keibert Ruiz becomes the best Catcher in the NL and it’s really only bad for one person — himself.
If he’s injured or completely eFn collapses, it’s bad for the Nats. In that case he’s an overpaid backup catcher most likely. But odds are better it works out for both.
Good luck to him and the Nats on this one.
Foolish Bailey agrees
Player wins this one not that it isn’t good for team as well. Murphy got 20 some million more and is far superior and proven. I would have signed this if I was Ruiz. Nats will make out if he stays healthy. Will really make out if power improves.
So they let Harper walk, trade Turner & Soto away and this is the guy they extend? Same with their pitchers they either let the good ones sign else where or trade them away and Strasburg is the one they extend. Not sure why they’d extend him considering they’re going to be terrible for years to come.
If he doesn’t regress at all he will, at a minimum, put up 16-18 WAR over the cost of the contract – about $3MM per 1 WAR. Not shabby for the Nats even if he ends up backup catcher. If he poops the bed or gets hurt they are out $6MM per year…which is what garbage middle relief pitchers will be getting in a few years. So worst case – instead of paying a middle reliever they let some minimum salary kid pitch thus making up for lost $$ on Ruiz. No downside for the team.
Big upside is if he gets some pop, increases his defensive value or just starts to rake – he might have gotten $25MM just in his 3 arb years… big savings. And great catcher at $6MM could bring back a haul if rebuild isn’t finished.
Eight year commitment for a .251 hitter. smh
Catchers don’t grow on trees. Solid move for the Nats.
Backup Catcher to the Backup Catcher
Good potential for improvement on offense IMHO. When a hitter only strikes out 12% of the time, that’s a good sign. With so much contact, the BABIP gods will have a lot to say each year about where his BA lands.
The offensive bar for catchers is set rather low, but if Ruiz can turn his plate discipline into getting more walks, a catcher with a .330 OBP and 10-12 HR is very valuable.
One thing is for sure now: We won’t have to hold a charity beef ‘n beer night for him anytime soon. Should be able to skate by on $6+ million a year.
The nationals should focus more on unsigning their existing contacts than signing new ones. You know who.
More young players should do this. Nobody ever knows how long their career will last. Get generational wealth for your family as soon as you can do it.
Maybe more of them need a groin trauma hospital visit to appreciate the uncertainty of it all.
Look is seems as if the entire article is a rah, rah piece, supporting the notion that the Nat’s did a smart thing in locking up and paying a currently very pedestrian defensive 24 year old catcher a lot of money for what is described as calling card contact skills with the bat…basically that he puts the ball into play…whether that’s a hit or out regardless…….time will tell as to how or whether this all works out.
deGrom Texas Ranger
Socialism for millionaires is very popular on this site. It further supports the notion that journalists are uneducated and uninformed.
Do tell how a 24 year old signing an extension that only benefits himself is socialism. I’ll wait.
deGrom Texas Ranger
What I’m saying is these writers in general are overzealous in their attempts to turn baseball into basketball by urging owners to inflate average salaries way quicker than the CPI or the growth of the sport. Sure, owners get money though TV deals, player endorsements (of those funds don’t go straight to the players), merchandise, and tickets, but the idea here is that journalists want to snatch every penny the owners make in profit and give it our to the poor “millionaire players.” I said socialism for millionaires since the system doesn’t even help the minor leaguers who make less than many of us here. Yes, it sucks for minor leaguers, but average+ players are just feasting off the money squeezed out of fans with these 300+ dollar jerseys and $8 cotton candy etc. Yes, I don’t “have to” buy stuff, but I would like to.
deGrom Texas Ranger
I am talking about the writers who make every pre-arb extension out to be a steal for even unestablished prospects simply because the player could end up being cheaper than a free agent. I said millionaires since this thinking doesn’t help minor leaguers who make less than many of us. The last comment is pending moderation because I must have used the s word you used above.
Ruiz is a fantasy catcher of mine i have on a number of teams
this is a horrible contract for him to sign. That is such a steal for the nats.
Why the hell would you do this?
Solid move for the Nats, Ruiz certainly looks the part of a decent regular catcher and checking that off for most of the next decade at a reasonable price allows them to focus on other areas of roster construction, and if something goes wrong, it’s not a franchise crippler type of contract.
I would prefer Toll House or Nabisco.
You can start a sentence with “meanwhile,” Anthony. I promise you it’s ok.
Win for both. Nats lock up a kid they feel is going to turn out to be good and the kid has $50M coming his way and can live the next 8 years in first class and know he’ll always have a job. And if his management team is good, they’ll help him invest that money now and turn it into much more, increasing his earning potential because he’s getting a good chunk of the money front loaded. Kid could be a complete failure and still walk away with hundreds of millions if done right.
Cory in Texas
Hard to imagine how the large sums of money impact these relatively young men and how long-term guarantees impact desire to improve. That “carrot on a stick” approach helps motivate people. Do well over an extended period of time and be rewarded. The up-front reward is an interesting strategy. I think it kills the desire to continually improve but I may be wrong. Hurt to see that happen in the case of Roughned Odor. Of course, it depends on the individual’s work ethic and personal drive. Hope these deals work out for both teams. Disappointing when it doesn’t work out, for both the team and the player.
Sign Nats are moving in the right direction locking up a young core. Abrams and Gore/Gray will be next if the do well this year.
Good move for the Nats, and it’s been a while since I said that. My guess is that his floor is a 2 WAR catcher, and could easily be 2.5-3.0.
If Ruiz does really good the endorsments will come his way.