The Colorado Rockies could be putting an end to the Wilin Rosario experiment behind home plate. Troy Renck has suggested that the Rockies will aggressively pursue free agent catcher Carlos Ruiz to take over catching duties. If the Rockies land Ruiz, or another catcher capable of starting, it likely means Rosario will be shifting to first base to replace the retiring Todd Helton.
Rosario, 25 in February, is considered one of the worst defensive catchers in the game. However, his bat is pretty special and the Rockies have no intentions of letting that bat go to waste. This past season, Rosario hit .292/.315/.486 with 21 home runs, 79 RBI, 22 doubles and 63 runs scored. In his breakout 2012 season he posted a .270/.312/.530 line with 28 home runs, 71 RBI, 19 doubles and 67 runs scored. Moving him from behind the plate would obviously reduce the wear and tear on Rosario and allow him to concentrate on hitting where he is the bigger asset to the club.
Adding a catcher like Ruiz would be a boost to the Rockies as they try to recover from a season that saw them finish in last place in the NL West with a 74-88 record. There aren’t many catchers on the market this off-season that can be viewed as definite upgrades. In fact, there are three who fall into that category, Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Carlos Ruiz. You could include Mike Napoli in there if some GM thinks Napoli can still catch which, let’s face it, isn’t going to happen. Of the three free agent catchers only McCann was extended a qualifying offer and he figures to have his services bid on quite a bit with teams like the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox vying for his services.
The Rockies are smart to take aim at Ruiz. Granted, he is no spring chicken as he will turn 35-years-old in January. However, he is adept at handling a pitching staff, has some ability to hit on offense and won’t cost the team a draft pick or a ton of money for his services. Of course, with so few catchers on the market this winter every catcher might be the subject of a small bidding war.
Adding Ruiz would give the Rockies options. They can choose to form a tandem between Rosario and Ruiz, splitting time between the two to keep them fresh while also allowing Walt Weiss to put the best possible team on the diamond. The Rockies would still be able to play Rosario at first base but they could also just move Rosario to first full-time and allow Ruiz to catch as much as his aging body will allow him while moving Jordan Pacheco from first and giving him more time behind the plate.
The Rockies could also move Michael Cuddyer to first and platoon Rosario and Ruiz behind the plate while giving Rosario time to adjust to first base.
No matter what happens, signing Ruiz would give the Rockies a lot more options than if they stand pat. Moving Rosario from behind the plate and putting him at first might be the best option on offense. It won’t solve all of the Rockies’ problems but it would be a drastic improvement.