Phillies, Chooch Agree to $26 Million Deal

Ruiz Hits Record HeatThe Phillies are betting big Carlos Ruiz can remain a healthy and productive catcher the next three seasons.

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.

17 Comments

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Love Ruiz, but once again RAJ shows he has no plan for bringing the Phillies back to winning ways. With 2-3 catching prospects in the high minors they should have signed a one year contract with someone with an option. This would have allowed the Phillies to use the money next year on a FA in a premium posisition.
RAJ seems to think we are actual contenders for 2014 instead of the rebuilding team we need to be. Just because he’s stuck some players he can’t move and who aren’t worth their paychecks, doesn’t mean he just goes and signs even more old, declining players.

You’re forgetting the fact that Ruiz would not have re-signed on a one-year deal and catcher is an extremely volatile position (Joseph is the perfect example). There is no guarantee that they would spend more money on a one-year deal for a guy like Navarro and end up in exactly the same spot next year hunting for a catcher.

GM’s like Ruben Amaro are sending out a loud and distrubing message… not only is it OK to use PED’s… but after a player gets caught using – he can expect to get paid handsomely – as if his tainted stats are real and not pumped up. Someone has to take the keys away from Amaro.

I’m not defending Amaro in any sense, but Ruiz was suspended for using Addderall, which he now has a medical clearance to use from MLB. The only message here is that Ruiz was too stupid to not get clearance before he was suspended. He probably borrowed some from Victorino’s stash. If that dude isn’t ADHD, nobody is.

The fact that the red sox were going after him says a lot. Even if he doesn’t continue to be an above average hitting catcher, his defense, game calling, and the strong support he gets from pitchers as a big part of their success is worth a lot. Even if his bat goes south, which I don’t think it will, his poise at the most important position is well worth the contract he got considering that the phils have no option in their farm system who will be ready for everyday action in 2014. The only upgrade out there was McCann, and that would have been far to expensive. All in all I think it was the right move.

My premise is that the Phillies aren’t contenders this year. Therefore it makes no difference how bad the catcher is. They should stop paying large sums for stop gap players (byrd, Ruiz, Utley) no matter how loved they are in Philly, and go after young players who can be the core for the next 5-10 years. Revere is an example of that (in age, if not talent) With Ruiz locked up for 3 years, what do we do with our 3 prospects in AA/AAA ball? let them age?

He’s banking on the stars aligning while he waits out the toxic contracts. If Howard is healthy, Utley and Brown have years like last year, Rollins turns it around, and the bullpen has a good year then there is a chance they can sneak into the playoffs as a wild card. There’s honestly no reason to dump veterans and get young guys just to become a 100 loss team while you wait out the albatrosses. It’s more or less lined up at this point that *all* of the contracts expire around the same time.

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While I think the Phillies have some bad contracts for aging players, I don’t really have a problem with this one. Chooch is a ++ catcher and, if healthy, provides a pretty solid RH bat. I see Cameron Rupp making the team as the backup, and Tommy Joseph has another year to get his act back together. Their best catching prospect (Knapp) is still a few years away. Their catching situation going forward is pretty secure.

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I love Chooch, but bad contract. My question is – when is Amaro’s contract up?

at 8.6m per year, this isn’t a bad contract at all. Even for three years.

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I, for one, jumped for joy when I saw that Chooch was coming back to handle the pitching staff. He was irreplaceable. His knowledge of the pitching staff alone made him invaluable. As for those prospects FIJ keeps bringing up, Most highly ranked MLB prospects who are catchers either never pan out or they change positions, like Harper. The Phils have NO Buster Poseys or Yadier Molinas anyway in their system. Catching prospects usually take years to develop even at the Big League level. Who’s to say Joseph and Valle aren’t two more Kratzes? At least with Chooch, we know what we got.

Hope he stays healthy. That is all I can say about this signing. At some point these guys will break down and you are still left with no replacement. Remember when Chooch was a guy the Phils thought very little of until he was allowed to play?

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