Boston Red Sox Smart to Pass on Catcher Carlos Ruiz

Jonathan CullenSenior Writer INovember 18, 2013

The Red Sox were smart not to match Ruiz's deal with the Phillies.
The Red Sox were smart not to match Ruiz's deal with the Phillies.Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal was the first to report Monday that catcher Carlos Ruiz was going to re-sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Boston Red Sox were involved in the bidding for Ruiz right until the end reports CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, but the Red Sox didn't want to go to three years, according to WEEI's Alex Speier.

Boston was smart to pass on signing the veteran backstop because of the money involved and the length of contract. ESPN's Jayson Stark has a breakdown of the deal here.

On first glance, the deal seems like an extreme overpay by Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Three-years and $26 million for a 34-year-old catcher who will turn 35 in January doesn't seem like a particularly sound investment.

While Boston may have felt that Ruiz was a good short-term option, he was by no means going to be a perfect fit for Boston, and there would have been concerns with changing leagues and him declining in the back end of the contract.

Ruiz had the best year of his career in 2012, hitting .325 with 16 homers, 68 RBIs and a spot on the NL All-Star team. Those numbers immediately came into question when Ruiz was hit with a 25-game suspension for amphetamines after the 2012 season. 

The fact that his numbers dramatically declined in 2013 after the suspension had to be a concern for any team bidding on Ruiz this winter. Ruiz's numbers in 2013, where he hit .268 with five homers and 37 runs batted in more accurately reflect Ruiz's career average numbers of .274 with 11 homers.

Taking a chance on Ruiz's offensive numbers over the next two years would have been a willing gamble for almost any team, knowing that he could slide into a backup or platoon position by next season. Extending Ruiz for three seasons make it that much more likely that there will be some dead money in the deal. 

In fact, if I was a Phillies fan right now, I wouldn't feel too confident or excited knowing that my team had reached for Ruiz and Marlon Byrd to start free agency. Byrd served his own 50-game suspension for PED use in 2012. It is possible that the Phillies believe Ruiz can have the same type of career rebound in 2014.  

Drug suspensions are now an unfortunate part of baseball and it is unclear if these suspensions will cause free agents to sign shorter deals for less money. Ruiz's suspension doesn't look like it hurt him at all. 

Last year, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington had to be aggressive signing free agents to short-term expensive deals in order to rebuild the Boston clubhouse and roster. This winter, Cherington can let the market come to him. 

Ruiz was one of the options whom I listed at catcher for the Red Sox in 2014 if they chose to move on from Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter. Now Boston will have to move on to other options, knowing that Ruiz's deal probably increased the asking price of Saltalamacchia, as well as the other catchers on the market.

Boston knows that they have catching prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez waiting in the wings. The 23-year-old Vazquez will likely start the season at Triple AAA, leaving him one step away from the majors. Between the development of both young catchers and Boston's fertile farm system, the Red Sox don't have to extend themselves on any deal unless they are completely comfortable. 

The Red Sox wanted Ruiz, but they had a limit that they would go to and held firm. If you're a Red Sox fan, that is a really good sign to start the winter. 

Information used from Fox Sports, CBS, Baseball Reference, ESPN, Yahoo Sports, Sox Prospects