As recently as two weeks ago, Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said that “catching has to be one of our priorities in the offseason, maybe the top one.”
That certainly did not sound like of ringing endorsement of current catcher, Carlos Ruiz. For many reasons, Ruiz’s production went down this season from a record-setting 2012. Ruiz started the season with a 25-game suspension for using PEDs (specifically Adderall) and then struggled all season to regain his form.
That he has not done so must raise questions within the Phils’ hierarchy how much the PED use had to do with Ruiz’s remarkable 2012, where he posted a .325 batting average and 16 homers. This year, while his average (.283) is decent, he’s way down in home runs (five).
Right now, they appear willing to let Ruiz, 34, test the open market, which means either promoting from within or signing a free agent. Since they do not have any viable internal options – their best minor-league catching prospect, Cameron Rupp, is batting only .260 combined in 2013 between Double-A and Triple-A – they are probably going outside the organization.
The Phillies can afford to outbid teams since they are ranked No. 6 in all of baseball attendance despite their losing season and are likely to jettison some contracts, including Ruiz’s $5.5 million and Michael Young‘s $16 million.
The best available potential free agent option is Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves. McCann is five years younger than Ruiz with 19 homers and a .276 batting average this season. While he is a left-handed hitter, the Phillies could balance his presence in the lineup by platooning right-handed hitting Darin Ruf with Ryan Howard at first, in addition to bringing up right-handed hitting Maikel Franco to replace left-handed hitting Cody Asche at third.
That’s the kind of lineup that would no doubt lift the Phillies out of the run-scoring doldrums they’ve had all this season.