We spilled a lot of words on Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz here last week, and it would appear now as though they were all for naught, as one of the higher profile available catchers is off the market, having re-signed with Philadelphia on a deal that will pay him $26-million over three years. MLBTR has the details, naturally.
The third year of the deal– there is also an option for a fourth, plus some performance bonus clauses– looks like it must have been what sealed it, which is exactly what Rob Bradford of Boston’s WEEI tweeted. He suggests that Chooch’s choice came down to either Philly or Boston, with Ruben Amaro’s noted aggressiveness in trying to keep putting together the best team of 2009 making it an easy one.
Which isn’t to say it’s necessarily an atrocious deal.
I mean, I don’t think it’s a great deal for a team that should be thinking about getting younger, but with visions– perhaps delusions is a better term?– of actually being competitive for another year still driving the Phillies’ bus, I guess I get it? The $8.5-million per-year salary (there is also a $500K buyout for the option year) at least isn’t nearly as tough to swallow, I don’t think, as the extra year is.
But while I know the deal was met with derision in some quarters, isn’t it… kinda what free agency is all about at this point?
Amaro didn’t want to end up still holding a giant bag of the money his ownership still inexplicably lets him spend, with no catcher to show for it, when the game of musical chairs ends. It would be very easy for a club to pass continually on players because they don’t see the value in making the kind of deals that are going to get done at this time of year, but that would seem to me to be a good way to wind up missing out completely, or having to use prospect capital or players off the Major League roster in order to acquire a different asset, when a reasonably good one was available here for just cash.
On the other hand, as Keith Law points out in his post on the signing at ESPN.com (Insider only), “just 70 catchers have reached 400 plate appearances in a season in which they were 34 or older, and a third of them were worth 1 WAR or less — and that doesn’t even consider catchers who performed so badly they lost their jobs midyear.”
“And it’s not like his age-34 season was such a rousing success,” he adds.
I can’t disagree that it’s an ugly prospect, but so is going into another season with J.P. fucking Arencibia. Not that it’s either-or. Still, when I wrote about Ruiz last week I simply said that I could stomach what it looked like his new deal would be, on account of it being an upgrade on what we had. But I’m still sure there will be better value to be had on the free agent catching market (Dioner Navarro anyone?) and I’m definitely not going to claim that going as far as the Phillies did here on a player with so many red flags– platoon issues, age issues, PED issues, bat speed issues– is something the Jays damn well needed to have done.
It’s just… they need to do something, and this gives us some idea of the cost of doing business. That is, unless, given who handed out the deal and how old the player was that took it, it doesn’t actually tell us anything at all about what most teams are going to be willing to do.
At the very least, then, it removes one piece from an already grim market, and maybe gets the wheels in motion for other deals to start happening. That’s a good thing, but a bit of a scary thing, too. The music has started. And yeah, I’d rather see the Jays overpay in money than in players, but making sound, cheap, incremental improvements is– if we’re being honest– probably a better way for them to go than trying to hit a home run with the deal like the one the Phillies just handed out. After all, it won’t take a whole lot to provide a big upgrade on the -1.1 fWAR the Jays got out of their catchers last year, and risking further decline from a guy like Ruiz, for that kind of money, simply didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
So… there’s that.