Ruiz Makes It 25
The Phillies agreed Sunday on a three-year, $8.85 million contract with catcher Carlos Ruiz [...]
The deal — still pending a physical — includes a fourth-year club option of $5 million, with a $500,000 buyout, and performance incentives based on games started.
For the signings of Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino, we can just compare their salaries to their expected value. It’s trickier with catchers since a surefire method of evaluation has yet to be developed. However, we will glance at a couple of the best methods to date.
FanGraphs has valued the now 31-year-old Ruiz at 0.3, 1.7, 0.5, and 2.2 WAR over the past four seasons, an average of about 1.2. In free agent bucks, he has been worth a total of over $20 million, or about $5 million per year. Unfortunately, Ruiz’s defense is not at all factored into the equation as it is still but a silhouette amidst the Sabermetric landscape.
If we had to take a rough guess, how good has Ruiz been defensively? At Beyond the Box Score, Dan Turkenkopf ranked him as the third-best catcher in all of baseball at blocking pitches in the dirt last season. Dan also cites a similar metric developed by Pitch F/X guru Harry Pavlidis that ranked Ruiz as second-best in baseball. That makes sense — Ruiz’s propensity to block sliders in the dirt is part of what made Brad Lidge so dominating in 2008 and kept him just shy of embarrassingly incompetent last season.
As for throwing out base-stealers, Ruiz has thrown out 21, 31, 24, and 27% in his four seasons (2006-09 respectively) with the Phillies. The National League averages in those seasons are 28, 25, 27, and 29% respectively. In a very detailed post at Driveline Mechanics, devil_fingers had Ruiz 95th out of 115 catchers in “caught stealing runs” last season. Even if we only include those catchers with 2,500 plate appearances or more, Ruiz ranks 27th out of 35.
Overall, factoring in throwing out base-stealers, blocking pitches, committing errors and so forth, devil_fingers valued Ruiz at 5.4 total runs or roughly about 0.5 WAR. Add it to Ruiz’s offense along with position and replacement level adjustments, and he was worth close to 2 WAR last season or about $9 million. If Ruiz comes close to that next season, he’ll pay for his entire contract in one year in theory.
Even without the number-heavy evaluation (which, for catchers, should still be taken with a grain of salt as mentioned), Ruiz’s contract surely passes the smell test. The Phillies don’t have any catching prospects close to the Majors especially after trading Travis D’Arnaud to Toronto in the Roy Halladay trade. For roughly $9 million the Phillies extinguish any uncertainty surrounding the catching position and for $5 million more can extend Ruiz for another year in 2013.
Another interesting aspect of the extension is that Ruiz will continue to work with a pitching staff with which he is very familiar. While he will be teaming up with Roy Halladay for the first time, he has worked with Cole Hamels for four years, J.A. Happ for one-plus, Joe Blanton for one and a half, and Jamie Moyer for three and a half. He has developed a reputation for calling a good game behind the plate and with everyone sans Moyer locked up through 2012, keeping the crew together can become an advantage.
Ruiz may not be Joe Mauer, but he’s worth the money he’ll be receiving in the next three or four seasons. Meanwhile, Ruben Amaro continues his trend of signing players to contracts at market value or below for three or fewer guaranteed years.