What will happen this MLB Preseason when the Dodgers have to finalize their plans for Carlos Ruiz? He wasn’t a Dodger long enough to become popular with the fans, nor did he produce enough baseball heroics to impress the front office, so his name has been dropped as potential trade bait for interested teams.
In fact, fans never really stopped scrutinizing the move that brought Carlos Ruiz to the team. One of the biggest reasons people turned their noses up at Ruiz when he first arrived with the Dodgers was simply because he wasn’t A.J. Ellis.
Ruiz had the unfortunate task of replacing a popular player who was suddenly – and surprisingly – traded away. Ellis had been a Dodger since 2003. He was Kershaw’s best friend on the team, his good luck charm and security blanket. He was a good teammate, a veteran team leader, and popular with the fans.
Of course, Ellis’ average skills at the plate where definitely waning, and his below-average pitch-framing skills mattered little to fans for whom he was a favorite. So, of course, many fans were going to be less than enthused about the appearance of Ruiz.
The second strike against Carlos Ruiz was the peril of bringing a new catcher into the fold mid-season. It was going to take time for Ruiz to acclimate to a new pitching staff. Learning how pitches are broken and sequenced was also bound to take time, so maybe fans were right to express some frustration over the timing of Ruiz’s acquisition. Making a change of this magnitude for a backup catcher tends to cause disruptions, and many fans probably presumed that the risk wasn’t worth it for Ruiz.
Looking at Ruiz’s first game for the Dodgers (August 26 vs the Chicago Cubs), those concerns played out as realities. The Cubs were able to tie the game and eventually go on to win, partly because of the struggles Ruiz had behind the plate handling Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning.
The Dodgers were leading the Cubs by one run in the ninth inning when Ruiz missed a strike-three pitch. It bounced off his glove and the tying run advanced to third. On the next batter he right out missed catching a high fastball, and that allowed the tying run to cross the plate. The official scorer handed Jansen his first wild pitch of the season, but that call could just as easily have been a passed ball. Suffice to say, the A.J. Ellis Marching and Chowder Society was not amused. Despite his evening out the scales as the season played out, plenty of Dodger fans resisted accepting him.
Carlos Ruiz’s contract is team-friendly ($500,000 for a buyout and a $4.5 million team option), and he showed some potential to be a power-hitting backup catcher who can hit southpaws, so it isn’t a foregone conclusion that Ruiz will leave the team.
Of all the options available out there for trade, Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney and Asros right-hander Pat Neshek’s names have floated, along with Ruiz’s, to the top. Within recent days rumors and sources have begun suggesting that the Dodgers are willing to move Ruiz. Apparently the team is making him available as they plan to make a run with young Austin Barnes.
If the rumors about Ruiz are true, there are a number of parties that could show interest in him. Ruiz is not young at 37 years of age, but he put up a respectable line of .264/.365/.348 with three home runs in 233 plate appearances. He also batted .271/.407/.386 against lefties in 2016, which as the Dodgers well know, is plenty desirable in a backup catcher.
Will the Dodgers see $4.5 million as too much to pay Carlos Ruiz? They’re dangling him on the line to see if anyone else might be willing to accept that price tag for an aging backup catcher.