Should Phillies Consider Releasing Carlos Ruiz?


What does the future hold for arguably the Philadelphia Phillies‘ greatest catcher of all-time?

On the final day of the 2015 season, the Phillies held a pre-game ceremony acknowledging that catcher Carlos Ruiz had been behind the plate for an incredible four no-hitters during his career with the team. For all the love that Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels, among others, have gotten for their roles during the most successful run in team history, it was nice to see Ruiz get his day in the sun.

Earlier this off-season, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury opined that he thought that the team did this ceremony, knowing that it may have been Ruiz’s last day in uniform.

"Everything changed for Ruiz when he became an $8 million backup in 2015.The Phils will continue to make Ruiz available for a trade, but would probably have to pick up a huge portion of his remaining $9 million to find a taker. The team honored Ruiz with a classy tribute for catching four no-hitters in his career before Sunday’s season finale. Frankly, it felt like a sendoff for a beloved former champion. We’ll see if it turns out that way."

Whether the three-year/$26 million deal was the work of David Montgomery or Ruben Amaro Jr, it was a fireable offense (and I blasted the deal the time). The deal gave a then 34 year-old catcher — coming off a season where a PED suspension, injuries and declining ability at the plate limited him to hitting just .268 with five homeruns in 92 games — an expensive contract security though his mid 30’s. Well-run organizations don’t do that.

So the idea that the Phillies are entering the final guaranteed season of Ruiz’s deal and we’re having a discussion about whether it’s worth just paying Ruiz $9 million and thanking him for his service isn’t a surprise to anyone except a front-office that is no longer intact.

Even with Ruiz under-performing, the thing is, he really isn’t blocking anyone. Cameron Rupp will be on the team to start the season, but even he is pretty below-average. He did post a 9.2 defensive WAR in 2015 (per Fangraphs), largely due to his success at throwing out base-stealers, but he batted just .222 and posted a -11.8 offensive WAR. Overall, he posted a 0.9 WAR to Ruiz’s 0.7, but he hasn’t proven that he deserves anything more than a chance to open the season in the major’s next year.

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Jorge Alfaro, acquired in the Cole Hamels’ trade, is one of the organization’s top prospects but seems pretty unlikely to get any major league looks in 2016.

Andrew Knapp batted .360 in 55 games at Double-A Reading in 2015, but figures to remain there at least to start the season in 2016.

Those two will hopefully be the Phillies’ long-term answers at catcher, and Knapp could potentially be September call-up if he impresses in 2016. But neither really have any chance to push Ruiz or Rupp out of their spots to begin the season.

Next: Brad Lidge Endorses Ruben Amaro as Coach

So the Phillies best bet still seems to enter the season with Ruiz and Rupp, probably getting equal time until one (if one) separates them-self as the clear starter.

It’s worth noting that it would be an awkward scenario for the Phillies to have to designate Ruiz for assignment mid-season if he was that bad or Knapp forced his way onto the big club. From that perspective, the Phillies could decide that it’s best to just part ways with Ruiz now. And given their recent tendency to eat money for the better of the team, there’s no reason they couldn’t absorb the financial hit it would take to release Ruiz.

But if you can’t even definitively say Ruiz isn’t the best player at his position on the roster, it’s hard to think releasing him makes sense.

Phillies Notes

  • Mike Maddux might not have been interested in joining a coaching staff with almost no long-term stability, but it’s unfortunate that when the Rangers’ let the well respected pitching coach go, the Phillies weren’t there to at least offer him the position. Instead, inexplicably, the team felt comfortable extending Bob McClure for this season.

More from Section 215

  • Obviously the Ryan Howard deal has had numerous reasons why it hasn’t panned out, but after seeing how badly it has worked out, the idea of anyone giving Chris Davis a six or seven year deal where he’s making close to the same annual average as Howard is startling. Paying for power-hitters almost never works out.
  • CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the Royals will non-tender Greg Holland this past weekend. He didn’t have a very good year in 2015, but the idea that you could lose your closer and still have your bullpen be a strength in leading you to a World Series is pretty incredible. I’m not sure even the 2008 Phillies could have lost Brad Lidge and had their bullpen remain as effective as the Royals’ bullpen was.
  • Dan Otero, claimed on waivers yesterday, was a great pick-up. He’s 30, can’t be a free-agent until after the 2019 (yeah, that’s a real year) season and is only two seasons removed from posting a 2.28 ERA in 72 appearances. He’s only three seasons removed from posting a 1.38 ERA in 33 appearances. He struggled mightily in 2015, but relievers can often rediscover themselves when thrown into a new situation.