Ah, the good ol’ mystery team is poised to strike again.
Or at least, that’s what free agent Carlos Ruiz‘s camp will have you believe anyway as word has been quickly spreading that the veteran backstop has received a two-year, $20 million offer from an undisclosed suitor. Whether that’s actually legitimate or just the 34-year old’s camp blowing smoke and hoping to get the Colorado Rockies to go to a third year is another story, but taken as face value … could the Toronto Blue Jays be the mystery team?
Given the team’s need a catcher, that’s probably a speculation that’s not going to go away until Ruiz is signed, but that the post-suspension catcher may actually end up getting $10 million per year should say more than a little something about just how far Toronto’s reported payroll increase will get them.
Assuming that they have an extra $20 million to spend (the generally figure being thrown around among Blue Jays nation), would they truly spend half of it on Chooch?
Though it’s hard to look at J.P. Arencibia these days and imagine a bright future for him behind the plate in Toronto, it’s perhaps even harder to imagine that kind of commitment to Ruiz being a good idea. While the unexpected 2012 late-career breakout player did eventually capture some of that form in 2013, it only really materialized itself over the month of August, in which he put up a .333/370/.563 triple-slash, good for a 160 wRC+.
For the rest of his suspension-shortened year? He was anything but great, never topping .700 OPS month and finished with a .688 OPS over 341 PA in a 1.4 fWAR season.
That’s not brutally bad, of course, but since when should mediocrity earn multi-year contracts with eight-figure annual salaries while the player is headed towards the twilight of their career? If that’s truly where the market price is set for free agent catchers, the Blue Jays might just as well forget trying to find any kind of value in potentially signing a less costly guy like A.J. Pierzynski.
Not that Ruiz isn’t necessarily a bounce-back candidate, but between the banned substances suspension, the age and the down, year, it seems borderline nutty that he’s potentially going to be in line for a multi-year contract where he’ll make twice his salary in 2013 in a single year. With the limited funds that Toronto will have to work with even with a bumped up payroll, taking that expensive a risk sure seems like an express ticket to hamstringing themselves in other areas.
So could the Blue Jays be the mystery team? Well, considering that doing so might leave them with nary enough room to sign a pitcher like Ubaldo Jimenez, let alone a second baseman … I’d guess that it’s probably not the case.
Instead, what the team would probably be better off doing is look to acquire a backstop through trade (several names have already come up including Wilson Ramos, Jason Castro and Chris Ianetta/Hank Conger) and instead try to use what payroll increase they can to land at least one impact player.
In a weird roundabout way, Ruiz is kind of a representative of the Blue Jays’ conundrum, hanging around the area of being not quite good enough to earn the money he’ll get, even if it’s money that a team will probably need to pay anyway.
And I mean, the bluebirds already have enough conundrums of their own, you know?