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According to Matt Gelb, the Phillies have re-signed catcher Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million contract:
There are two ways of looking at this deal:
1. Hooray! Chooch is coming back!
2. Did they really just give a three-year/$26 million contract to a 34-year-old catcher?
Most Ruben Amaro critics are going to say that this is another case of him handing out an unnecessarily long and expensive deal to an older player, or that he is foolishly obsessed with keeping the core of the 2008 team together.
But as the internet’s foremost Amaro apologist, I’ll once again come to his defense.
Keep in mind that there weren’t a lot of good alternative options out there. None of the other free agents appeared to be a great fit, and unless Cameron Rupp surprises everyone, the Phillies don’t have an in-house replacement. The Phillies simply weren’t going to get younger or cheaper at catcher. Or at least, they weren’t going to get younger and cheaper unless they basically played a replacement-level player.
This situation is similar to what they faced with Jimmy Rollins a couple of years ago. They actually let one of their players test the market, and when neither side saw anything they liked better, they came to an agreement that seemed fair given the market.
There is reason to believe that Ruiz can still be a valuable player throughout the life of this contract. It’s almost a given that he’ll be strong defensively, and his after a slow start coming off a suspension, his offense picked up in the second half of 2013. He might not be able to repeat his breakout 2012 season, but a return to 2011 form is very possible.
Naturally, there are also reasons for concern. Ruiz has been injury prone throughout his career, and that is unlikely to change in his late-30s. It’s reasonable to expect him to spend some time on the disabled list. And while Ruiz’s adderall issues are supposedly behind him, he is the second player signed this offseason who has been linked to PEDs in recent years.
Perhaps Ruiz goes into a steep decline, and this deal becomes yet another burden on the payroll. But the Phillies seem to be betting that they have secured the services of a good catcher for the next three years, and that Citizens Bank Park will once again be filled with Ruiz T-shirt jerseys and cheers of “Choooooooch!”
Given the lack of better options, that seems to be a decent bet to make.