The Nationals’ eight-year, $50MM contract extension with catcher Keibert Ruiz was, somewhat incredibly, the first time the team has agreed to a long-term deal with a pre-arbitration player, Andrew Golden of the Washington Post points out. General manger Mike Rizzo noted at the press conference over the weekend that while it was the first such time the team had reached a deal, it was not the first time they’d attempted to get a contract of this nature worked out (Twitter link via MASNsports.com’s Mark Zuckerman).
As Golden writes, Ruiz drew praise from Rizzo, manager Dave Martinez and teammates (including Cade Cavalli) for his leadership prowess in addition to his tools behind the plate. Perhaps of greater note for Nats fans, Golden notes that Rizzo suggested there are other candidates for this type of deal on the roster and said that there’s no real limit to the number of these type of deals the team can pursue. The team’s unsteady ownership situation and years-long battle over television rights fees with the Orioles loom over any major financial decisions, but that didn’t stand in the way of Ruiz’s eight-year deal. Only time will tell whether subsequent extensions for the Nats’ young core will follow, but it’s a notable shift for an organization that has previously been unable to hammer out this type of early-career pact with key players.
A bit more on the Nats…
- The Nationals are shutting righty Victor Arano down for 10 days due to an impingement in his right shoulder, tweets Golden. He’ll be reevaluated at that point. The 28-year-old Arano returned to the Majors in 2022 after a three-year layoff that was partially attributable to elbow surgery. He tossed 42 frames for the Nats, working to a 4.50 ERA but posting much more promising rate stats: a 23.5% strikeout rate, a 6.4% walk rate, a 51.6% grounder rate and 1.07 HR/9. Fielding-independent metrics like FIP (3.71) and particularly SIERA (3.14) felt he was vastly better than his earned run average would otherwise indicate. Arano was very likely ticketed for a spot in Washington’s Opening Day bullpen, but his availability for the season is now clearly in doubt. Notably, his 2022 season ended in early September due to a strain in this same shoulder.
- Any open spots in the bullpen could create opportunities for the remaining non-roster pitchers in camp. One who’s garnered some attention from Nats brass thus far, per Jessica Camareto of MLB.com, is right-hander Hobie Harris. The former Yankees 31st-round pick is on his fourth organization in pro ball after signing with Washington on a minor league deal this offseason, and he’s tossed five shutout innings with one hit, no walks and six punchouts. Martinez spoke with Camareto about Harris’ impressive splitter, his game-planning and his command so far in spring training. “I love the fact that he comes in there and pounds the strike zone,” said Martinez. “When you’re in the bullpen, I always tell them all the time, ’Walks are not your friends. Those walks kind of beat you up.'” Command has been an issue for Harris in the past, evidenced by a 12.5% walk rate in two Triple-A seasons, but he still pitched to a pristine 2.04 ERA with a 27% strikeout rate in 53 innings for the Brewers’ Triple-A club in 2022.
I’m glad the Nats signed Keibert long term, and I hope they trend away from Boras clients as well. As for Hobie, I hope he and Alex Call continue to dominate into the regular season, as well as Joey’s heroics for Team Mexico in the WBC.
C Yards Jeff
I like the Ruiz extension as well. Also, like that Rizzo is trending to doing more of this.
Getting a group of younger players all around the same age making the same kind of money over similar longer term(s) has everyone on equal footing. No one is left out plus I have always felt that only one player getting one big contract is a morale buster … and puts unnecessary pressure on that one player to perform. See Chris Davis. IMO, a solid dude left out there alone on “mega bucks” island, made it very difficult for him to comfortably perform.
Agreed. Despite being a division rival, I like that the Braves haven’t been afraid to extend most of their players early (Swanson aside). I’m hoping to see extensions for guys like Wood, Green, and Hassell if they find success at the big league level.
Marinararivera + Tony Plush
As a braves fan I’d like to see the nationals extend their guys too! It benefits both parties I believe.