As good as Carlos Ruiz has been for the Philadelphia Phillies, he may not be back in 2014. There is a possibility that events may transpire in the 2013 season to make the Phillies steer away from resigning Carlos Ruiz.
One of those events is the development of the understudy catchers: Erik Kratz and Tommy Joseph.
Kratz is already 32, so he’s not a long-term solution. He raised eyebrows with his bat last year, clubbing 9 HR and driving in 26 runs while batting .248 (.248 is good for catcher if he can hit for power). His numbers projected over 125 games (a strong number for an every day catcher) are 22 HR | 65 RBI | .248 AVG | .306 OBP, great production from the shallow Major League company at catcher, and would have ranked top 10 in most Fantasy Baseball leagues.
The catcher waiting in the wings is the 22 year-old prospect Tommy Joseph. He was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. He has hit well at A and AA, so you can count on Joseph being with the AAA team this year. If Kratz starts slow and Joseph hits in spring training he could make the show this season. I think the Phillies are going to try and avoid that though and let Joseph marinate for a year in AAA.
All it takes is one injury to Carlos Ruiz for one or both of these catchers to get their shot at the big job. Carlos is already going to miss the first 25 games for taking Adderal, if he gets hurt at some point during the season and has to miss substantial time, the Phillies may find themselves starting someone besides Carlos Ruiz for more than half of their games. If Ruiz’s replacement (Kratz will start the season with the job) performs adequately the Phils may look at Ruiz and his contract demands as unnecessary and opt to trade him, then run out the clock with cheap help until Joseph is ready in 2014 or 2015.
Ruiz will make $5M this year, and will probably ask for a raise because, well, that’s what players do. Joseph makes a minor league salary, and Kratz makes close to the major league minimum at $496K (oh, poor Erik).
Carlos Ruiz will be a free agent this offseason, whether he comes back depends on: his performance, his replacements performance, other clubs level of interest in Ruiz and his contract demands. The Phillies need to keep cutting payroll so they can rebuild for after the Charlie Manuel era ends (in a few more seasons, hopefully). As such Carlos Ruiz may be too expensive an option.