With the Phillies in free fall, pretty much everyone has come to the conclusion that the Phillies need to be sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. The Phillies should – and likely will – send away some of their veteran players. It sounds like just about everyone on the team is on the market.
One name getting tossed around by fans and pundits is Carlos Ruiz. The veteran catcher is due to be a free agent at the end of the season, and while his numbers are down this year, I could see a contender viewing him as a valuable addition based on his reputation for handling a pitching staff.
The Phillies should be open to trading just about anyone, but if they were to trade Ruiz, they would be selling him at his lowest value. Ruiz has suffered through what is essentially a lost season. Between his suspension, injuries, and general underperformance, Ruiz hasn’t been anywhere near the player he was in 2012 when he made the All-Star team and was arguably the team’s MVP.
Hindsight says that they should have traded him last season when his value was at its highest, but that wasn’t really an option at the time. The Phillies hoped to return to contention this season behind a strong starting rotation. If that is the plan, then it doesn’t make sense to trade away the team’s veteran catcher, especially when the only other option was Eric Kratz.
The Phillies have to determine if this is simply a bad year for Ruiz, or if his career is truly on a steep decline. If they think he can get back to his pre-2012 form, then wouldn’t it be worth trying to work out a contract extension while his value is at its lowest? The Phillies don’t appear to be giving up on 2014, so as long as he’s got something left in the tank, having Ruiz around would be beneficial. Could they sign him to a two-year deal, after which he would hopefully move aside for prospect Tommy Joseph?
The other options for 2014 don’t look all that appealing. Kratz has proven to be a good backup, but he’s overmatched as a starter. Brian McCann will be a free agent, but will likely require more contract years than the Phillies should feel comfortable offering to a 30-year-old catcher. The rest of the free agent pool isn’t especially inspiring, unless there are any closet Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Kurt Suzuki fans out there.
There is obviously a risk in signing Ruiz to a multi-year deal. His play in 2013 is an indication that he’s either gotten old or he was too dependent on the Adderall to boost his plays. Additionally, there’s the added danger that he could have another positive drug test which would require a lengthy suspension.
If the Phillies did receive a good trade offer for Ruiz, then it certainly would make sense to listen. But since I don’t envision the Phillies being overwhelmed, the best option might be to try to take advantage of Ruiz’s low value and extend his contract.