PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Phillies agreed to a three-year, $26 million contract with long-time catcher Carlos Ruiz on Monday.
There were reportedly three other teams bidding for Ruiz’s services, including the Rockies and Red Sox. The Phillies decided to give Ruiz a third year, which could have been the deciding factor for Ruiz.
Here’s what baseball writers are saying about the deal:
Dating back to the off-season following the 2010 season, only one catcher has earned a contract greater than two years in length. The Marlins gave John Buck a three-year, $18 million back in November 2010. Seven others were given contracts of two years in length. The rest were given one-year deals. Amaro is stepping into relatively uncharted waters in order to retain Ruiz. To put the deal in perspective, MLB Trade Rumors predicted a two-year, $14 million contract for Ruiz. It would have been in line with historical precedent.
Because the Phillies have a long history of overpaying for aging players, the easy narrative is that Ruben Amaro strikes again. He just guaranteed Ruiz $8.5 million for his age-37 season, and the list of catchers who have been productive at that point in their careers is very small indeed. This deal, like almost every other contract signed by the Phillies in recent years, is unlikely to end well.
However, I will continue to point out that we should not evaluate a free agent contract by how it looks in the last year of the contract. Free agents on multi-year deals often take less money in AAV than they are worth for the beginning of the contract in exchange for being overpaid at the back end. This is entirely normal, and nearly every free agent contract is going to work the same way: value up front, albatross at the end. We cannot simply state that the Ruiz signing is a poor one for the Phillies because Ruiz will be overpaid at the end of the deal.
The Philadelphia Phillies have made the first two notable signings of the offseason, and this latest one is even worse than the first. Giving Marlon Byrd a little more than he was worth was bad, but giving Carlos Ruiz, a 34-year-old catcher with platoon problems who’s coming off a PED suspension a three-year deal is absolute lunacy.
The Phillies essentially put themselves in a position where they had to overpay for Ruiz when they resigned Utley, which meant an inability to add a righthanded bat like Jhonny Peralta or Omar Infante at the position, which might have freed them up to sign a left-handed hitting catcher.
Ruiz will be 35 in January. There isn’t a strong track record for catchers 35 and older. Since 1965, only two catchers 35 or older have hit at least .290 in 400-plus plate appearances: Jorge Posada and Carlton Fisk. Only Fisk, Posada, Mike Piazza and A.J. Pieryznski had an .800 OPS after that age.
So, yes, it’s easy to knock this as yet another signing of an aging, past-his-prime player. In some regards, that’s what it is. (It does seem each offseason as if Amaro robotically goes about completing his to-do list.)
But it’s also a necessary move by the Phillies, considering the alternatives.