4 Ways the Phillies Can Replace Carlos Ruiz During His 25-Game Suspension
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Ruiz was flagged for using Adderall, an amphetamine typically used to control attention deficit disorder. It's still a performance-enhancing drug. But since Ruiz was caught for using a stimulant, rather than a steroid, he draws the shorter suspension under MLB's drug policy.
So the Phillies don't have their All-Star catcher and MVP candidate available for the regular season until April 28. That's quite a blow, since Ruiz was the team's best hitter this season, batting .325 with a .935 OPS, 16 home runs and 68 RBI in 114 games. He's also currently Philadelphia's only consistent right-handed bat.
How can the Phillies replace Ruiz while he's absent for the first month of the season? Here are four possibilities for the team to try.
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Playing a stopgap at catcher looks to be the way the Phillies will go while Carlos Ruiz serves his 25-game suspension.
Backup catcher Erik Kratz presumably becomes the starter behind the plate. In 50 games, he batted .248 with an .809 OPS, nine home runs and 26 RBI.
Defensively, Kratz allowed eight wild pitches and three passed balls. He threw out 45 percent (15-of-33) of opposing base stealers.
But shortly after the news of Ruiz's penalty was announced, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reported that Philadelphia signed free-agent catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor-league contract.
That means Quintero will have to win a job on the Phillies' major league roster during spring training, but the expectation seems to be that he can fill in during Ruiz's absence.
In 43 games with the Kansas City Royals this year, Quintero hit .232 with a .598 OPS, one home run and 19 RBI. He allowed 12 wild pitches and two passed balls, while throwing out 35 percent (17-of-49) of opposing base stealers.
If Quintero makes the team, he'll probably be demoted to Triple-A or designated for assignment once Ruiz returns.
Give the Kids a Try
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Carlos Ruiz's suspension provides the Phillies with an excellent opportunity to audition their two talented young catching prospects.
Sebastian Valle would presumably get the first shot at regular playing time with Philadelphia. Valle progressed from Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season.
But Valle's stint in Triple-A was rough, as he hit .218 with a .629 OPS in 22 games. He would probably benefit from beginning the season in Lehigh Valley, but if he's impressive during the spring, the Phillies could obviously use him in April.
The better prospect is likely Tommy Joseph, who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants in the Hunter Pence trade. But he played in Double-A last season with both the Giants and Phillies organizations and probably isn't ready to make the jump to the majors.
This season, Joseph hit .257 with a .715 OPS, 11 home runs and 48 RBI.
Bring in a Veteran
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Bringing in another veteran catcher—whether it's signing a free agent or making a trade—seems like a remote possibility given that Carlos Ruiz will return after 25 games.
It's not like Ruiz is coming off an injury. He'll likely be fresh, healthy and ready to go once his suspension ends and will take back his position as the Phillies starting catcher.
So why sign or trade for a player who might not have a place on the roster one month into the season?
That is, unless the Phillies decide they need a veteran backup to prevent Ruiz from catching 130 games or decide to follow through on their idea to have Ruiz play some third base next season.
Maybe a veteran like Ramon Hernandez would be a good fit, though the Colorado Rockies might want to keep him around as Wilin Rosario learns to play better defense behind the plate.
Finding someone like a Brian Schneider or Matt Treanor wouldn't be difficult. But is that option any better than playing Kratz?
Make a Trade
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Trading for another catcher is probably the least likely option for the Phillies and would probably constitute a panic move on the part of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
Considering the other various holes that need to be filled on the Phillies roster, it doesn't seem probable that Amaro would abandon his efforts to find two outfielders, a third baseman and reliever for next season while acquiring a player that could become completely unnecessary once Carlos Ruiz serves his 25-game suspension.
Having said that, there are viable trade possibilities if Philadelphia decided to add someone who could give the team more production when Ruiz is getting a rest, playing designated hitter during interleague play or even taking a shot at third base, which was looked at this year.
Ramon Hernandez of the Colorado Rockies was mentioned in the previous slide. He would definitely allow the Phillies to rest Ruiz more or move him around, if needed.
Another alternative could be the Washington Nationals' Kurt Suzuki. Will the Nats want to pay him for the next two seasons if Wilson Ramos is ready to return? Of course, the same question could be asked of the Phillies, which is why such a move makes little sense for them.
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