5 Options for Philadelphia Phillies If They Don't Re-Sign Carlos Ruiz
Of course, in what essentially serves as a representation of this season for the Phils, "Chooch" has spent time on the disabled list just like many other key contributors.
But Ruiz’s future with the Phillies is not as crystal clear as that of some other members.
For one, Ruiz has a $5 million option that the team must decide to exercise for next season, or pay a $500,000 buyout. After having a career season prior to suffering from plantar fasciitis, there’s little chance that the team would pass on exercising this option.
However, this option will only pay Ruiz through next season. What happens after 2013? What kind of contract would the Phillies offer to a then 35-year-old catcher whose injury history may or may not have been lengthened by that point? What kind of competition will the Phils have from other teams attempting to sign Ruiz? Would the Phillies even offer Ruiz another contract?
If Ruiz has another season next year like the one he did this year, the team could have few other choices than to try and sign him past next season.
But with internal options available in the form of minor league catchers who are rising through the ranks, and both high- and low-cost free agents potentially on the market at that point, the team will also have options should they decide to go in a different direction.
Here are five options for the Phillies if they don’t re-sign Ruiz after next season.
Valle is likely either going to be the Phillies’ catcher of the future or part of a trade package to fill a need at the Major League level.
The right-handed catcher is ranked at No. 7 among Phillies prospects by mlb.com and was promoted to Triple-A following the team’s acquisition of Tommy Joseph in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants.
However, Joseph’s acquisition also means that Valle will have his work cut out for him if he wants to succeed Ruiz as the Phils’ starting catcher.
Valle batted just .218 in 22 games at Triple-A, with four home runs and 13 RBI in 78 at-bats. He also walked just two times after he was promoted to the next level.
Combining Double-A and Triple-A stats, Valle batted .253 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI, but had 114 strikeouts to just 13 walks.
His power at the plate could help him reach the Major Leagues, but his low batting average and walk totals will need to be improved during another season in the minors.
The fact that Valle has not been named as a September call-up yet—and that Steven Lerud was promoted after Brian Schneider landed on the disabled list—could signal that Valle needs more time in the minors before his big league debut.
If Valle maintains his power numbers and improves his batting average next season, the Phillies can either use him in a trade package for a mid-season acquisition or name him as the team’s starting catcher.
Another of the Phillies’ minor league options at catcher for 2014, Joseph has already received positive feedback on his defense at the position, as quotes from a recent article by Marc Narducci on philly.com explain.
“One of the things I noticed right away is the type of receiver he is and how solidly he catches the ball and how well he holds it where it is,” Reading righthander Trevor May said. “He’s one of the best to throw to in that respect.”
After joining the Phillies’ Double-A affiliate, Joseph’s offense didn’t quite match his defense in terms of growth, as he batted .250 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 28 games. The right-hander struggled in his limited number of plate appearances against left-handed pitching, as well.
However, Joseph’s 11 home runs and 104 hits in 108 total games in Double-A this season, combined with his success behind the plate, could help him eventually become the Phillies’ starter at catcher.
As Narducci mentions in his article, Joseph will play in the Arizona Fall League.
Joseph is also just one season removed from batting .270 with 22 home runs and 95 RBI in High-A ball.
Joseph, who is ranked at No. 4 among Phillies prospects by mlb.com, will have to outperform Valle to be given an opportunity to become the team’s starter at catcher. However, if he continues his progression, he should be in line to receive that opportunity.
The Atlanta Braves will be in a position with McCann this offseason similar to the one the Phillies will be in with Ruiz.
McCann has a $12 million option for next season or a $500,000 buyout. Similar to the Phillies, it’s hard to imagine the Braves declining to exercise this option. But what happens after next season?
If McCann were to hit the free-agent market at that point, he would be a high priced option for the Phillies if they decided to attempt to sign the then 30-year-old catcher.
However, the team’s financial position could also have changed by that point. Will the Phillies have traded Cliff Lee and a portion of his contract by then? What will Roy Halladay’s contract look like after next season? The luxury tax threshold will also have increased to $189 million by the time McCann becomes a free agent.
McCann’s batting average this season is by far the lowest of his career, but his home run total has remained consistent for the seventh consecutive season.
In 104 games, McCann has hit 18 home runs and 58 RBI, and is on pace to continue his streak of striking out fewer than 100 times in each of his Major League seasons.
The career .280 hitter averaged 138 hits and 22 home runs from 2006-2011.
Yes, McCann would be expensive and, yes, the Phils will likely have other areas where such a high amount of payroll could be spent. But, if McCann becomes a free agent, he would be an intriguing option for the Phillies.
Saltalamacchia would only become an option for the Phillies if a number of dominoes fell first.
For one, despite posting a low batting average for the second consecutive season, Saltalamacchia has still shown solid power numbers during the same time. Last season he hit 16 home runs and he has hit 23 so far this season.
Second, he could be a low-cost option if he becomes a free agent after next season, as he is only making $2.5 million this season.
Finally, he would likely only become an option if the Phillies spent big while upgrading third base, the outfield and bullpen, and needed a low-cost option at catcher because—for some reason—Valle and Joseph weren’t able to take over the position.
Like I said, a lot of dominoes would have to fall.
However, if McCann signs long-term with the Braves, Saltalamacchia would become one of the best available free-agent catchers after next season.
Therefore, if the Phillies, for whatever reason, had to use free agency to find a starter at catcher, Saltalamacchia could be an option.
As long as he is in a newly upgraded lineup featuring multiple players batting .280 or higher, Saltalamacchia would fit in just fine.
The Phillies’ lone Major League option, Kratz has done a great job filling in for Ruiz as the team’s starter at catcher this season.
Then again, Kratz had only appeared in 11 major league games prior to this season.
In 38 games in the Major Leagues this year, Kratz is batting .287 with nine home runs and 24 RBI. Kratz will likely return as the Phils’ backup catcher next season, unless another team makes a trade offer to acquire him to be their starter.
Kratz is another player who would only become an option if the Phillies had already maxed out their spending after next season, and if their minor league prospects were deemed to not yet be Major League-ready.
If that’s the case, Kratz’s chances of becoming a full-time starter will depend on how he performs for the rest of this year and all of next season.
His power has given the Phils a boost in the second half, although his average has dipped from .319, where it recently stood.
Kratz is a long-shot to become the Phillies’ starter at catcher after next season, but he is also the only player that the team will have a firsthand look at for the rest of this season and next.