Phillies, Chooch Agree to $26 Million Deal
A source today confirmed multiple reports the Phillies and Ruiz have agreed to a three-year, $26 million deal. The deal includes a $4.5 million club option or $500,000 buyout for 2017. He also can make an additional $500,000 per season if he starts 125 games, something he has never accomplished in his 10-year big-league career.
An official announcement could come later this week.
Ruiz, who turns 35 in January, carried a combined .829 OPS from 2009-12. That ranked second among 13 qualifying catchers in baseball. Only Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, who is being converted to a first baseman next season, had been better with an .891 OPS. But Ruiz posted a .688 mark last season, which ranked 23rd of 25 catchers with 300 or more plate appearances. It was his worst season at the plate since 2008. He also served a 25-game suspension for using Adderall, a banned stimulant, although FOXSports.com recently reported Ruiz has received a medical exemption for its use.
But Ruiz still had more than his share of suitors. ESPN.com reported the Red Sox had seriously pursued him because of his game-calling capabilities. The Rockies also made an offer. But in the end the Phillies guaranteed a third year and increased the average annual value of the deal to keep him in red pinstripes.
That the Phillies guaranteed an extra year is not a complete surprise. Ruiz helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, he is greatly admired among coaches and players and pitchers love throwing to him, most notably free-agent right-hander Roy Halladay.
The Phillies also had no internal options, and the external ones had their own flaws. The Phillies had hoped a big season from prospect Tommy Joseph in 2013 could force them to make a tough decision, but a concussion ruined his season in Triple-A. There were a few free-agent catchers on the market, but the best ones hit left-handed and the Phillies are starved for right-handed hitters in the lineup.
The fact Ruiz hits right-handed should not be undersold. The Phillies ranked 11th in the National League with a .679 OPS against left-handers last season. Their only other right-hander in the lineup is outfielder Marlon Byrd, who the Phillies recently signed to a two-year, $16 million deal.
But Ruiz’s age, position, injury history (he has been on the disabled list each of the previous five seasons) and 2013 performance at the plate make this deal a risky one. The Phillies hope Ruiz’s finish last season – he posted a .795 OPS in his final 43 games – is a sign he will be OK at the plate.
Either way, the Phillies have checked catcher and corner outfielder from the offseason to-do list. Next up: improve the second-worst pitching staff in the National League.