Phillies Decide They Like Carlos Ruiz… Polanco and Others… Not So Much


Chooch, standing there, being all Choochie. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Phillies made four moves on Monday that came as a surprise to noone.

The first was to pick up the option on catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had the offensive season of his career in 2012. Ruiz will make a very affordable $5 million next year.

The second was to decline the mutual option on Placido Polanco, who I honestly forgot was still technically on the team. Polanco will earn a $1 million buyout and now becomes a free agent.

The third and fourth moves were the denial of options to reliever Jose Contreras and utility man/waste of space Ty Wigginton, neither of whom will be asked to return in 2013 as well.

I know, I know. Try to keep it together, guys.

Keeping Ruiz was a no-brainer. In an injury-shortened season, Ruiz played in 114 games and hit a ridiculous .325/.394/.540 for a team-leading OPS of .935, with 16 HRs and 32 2Bs in just 421 plate appearances. And, Ruiz continued to play stellar defense behind the plate.

Carlos will enter 2013 as a 34-year-old catcher, playing a position in which the Phils have two highly touted prospects in the high minors. It’s likely next year will be Chooch’s last with the Phils, so let’s all get our pinatas ready and prepare to celebrate the final season of one of the most popular athletes in Phillies history.

The same cannot be said for Polanco, Contreras or Wigginton, all of whom are probably very nice guys, but were unproductive, injured and disappointing in 2012.

However, Polanco and Contreras had some good times.

Polly had a productive season in 2010, playing in 132 games while hitting .298/.339/.386 and playing superb defense. His 2011 campaign was injury-filled, missing 40 games, although he still hit a respectable .277/.335/.339, made the NL All-Star team and won the prestigious and overrated Gold Glove Award at third.

Last year was a disaster. While still a good defender, the brittle Polanco just couldn’t stay on the field, playing in only 90 games while hitting .252 with a .307 on-base percentage, while totaling only 17 extra-base hits the entire season.

Even at $5.5 million, with no real alternatives at third base, the Phillies wisely decided they couldn’t justify keeping Polanco around for that kind of cash.

The 40-year-old Contreras came to the Phils in 2010 as a bullpen arm, and also had a productive first season with the team. He appeared in 67 games and compiled a 3.34 ERA, totaling 57 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. Unfortunately, 2011 and 2012 were not as good, as the age, wear and tear of Contreras’ long career took its toll. He appeared in just 17 games each season.

Finally, there’s Wigginton, who simply played too many baseball games this year and was overexposed. Ty Wigginton should never be forced to play 125 games, yet he was asked to be a primary fill-in at first base, third base and left field.

He just couldn’t do the job.

One would think being able to play three positions would be a plus. But not when you play them as terribly as Wigginton did. Unfortunately, he also couldn’t provide much offense, hitting just .235/.314/.375 with 11 HRs and 11 doubles in 360 plate appearances. Thankfully, he only cost $2 million and was bought out for a relatively inexpensive $500 thousand.

The Phillies shouldn’t have too much of a problem filling the void left by the three players non-tendered by the team. And keeping Chooch was the easiest call Ruben Amaro will make this winter.

Just the next step for the Phils to turn the page from a 2012 season they’d like to forget.