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Free Agent Pass or Play: Carlos Ruiz

Would you bring Chooch back for 2014?

We are officially beyond CRUNCH TIME – about 14 hours until the start of Free Agency at 12:01 AM November 5. We at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will be able to sign with any team at that time. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with right-handed catcher Carlos Ruiz. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink.

Performance

Chooch, 35 on Opening Day 2014, has been among the Majors’ best kept secrets behind the plate for a number of years. Since 2010, only Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, and Joe Mauer have been more valuable according to FanGraphs version of WAR, with Ruiz ranking sixth among catchers in batting average, third in on-base percentage, and 14th in slugging. Ruiz has averaged 416 PA over the last four years, remaining relatively healthy and finding ways to get at-bats even despite his 50-game suspension in 2013. According to FanGraphs, Chooch has saved the Phillies 74.3 runs behind the plate over his career and ranks fifth in the Majors since 2010 in that category.

Fit

Well – this one is kind of silly, isn’t it? Ruiz has had a brief cup of coffee in 2006 before cementing himself as an everyday player for 2007. Since Chooch has been a Phillie, the Phils have won a World Series, gotten to another, and won five division titles in his seven years of full-time playing.

Yet, that may be part of the issue: Chooch is three to four years, or six in the case of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, older than most of his free agent competition. While Chooch may be the most comfortable option, he may not be the best fit. Chooch has shown little signs of decline if you consider 2012 a positive outlier in his career yet, the question has to be asked: would you give a multi-year deal to a catcher who will be 35 on Opening Day of year one of the contract?

Cost

Both FanGraphs crowdsourcing project and MLB Trade Rumors have Chooch estimated at a $15-16 million contract over two years. This cost is not prohibitive to the Phillies.

Feasibility

This one is completely feasible: the Phillies need a catcher and would prefer a right-handed hitter. And not so coincidentally, Chooch is both. The tricky part in this one is “the field” – there are a lot of other suitors for catchers for 2014 and nobody quite knows where anyone else will wind up. As we learned earlier today, the Rockies are interested in Chooch, as well possibly the Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, White Sox, and Rangers according to MLBTR.

Verdict: A Very Soft Play

If I were the Phillies, I would offer a deal I felt reasonable to Chooch, which would be about two years, $10 million. If Chooch is interested, he will come back. If not, and if I believed I had a shot at one of the younger, perhaps better catchers, such as Brian McCann or Saltalamacchia, I would move on quickly.

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