Carlos Ruiz has a chance to become the best catcher in Philadelphia Phillies' history. But, in order to potentially earn that honor he will need to remain with the team past next season.
After the Phillies picked up his $5 million 2013 option this week it's fair to wonder how long he will keep his red pinstripes on.
Chooch for President
Any hardcore fan who has followed Ruiz' career wasn't shocked by his great performance in 2012.
The offensive coming-out party for this terrific defensive catcher was in its early planning stages during the 2008 playoff season. His National League Championship efforts against the Los Angeles Dodgers and World Series' performance against the Tampa Bay Rays foreshadowed what has come to pass since that historic year.
After hitting .302, with an .847 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) in 2010, he hit .283, with a .754 OPS in 2011. So, it seemed like he might settle somewhere within those two sets of statistics this season.
The "Chooch for President" campaign gained momentum during the summer of 2012 when Ruiz became an All-Star for the first time in his career. If injury hadn't later limited him to his lowest games played (114) total since 2009 (107), he might have stayed within National League Most Valuable Player Award range.
With Ruiz' credentials obviously established and because he's in the prime of his career, why would I question if he will remain with the team beyond 2013?
"Chooch" turns 34 in January, so he won't be over the hill by the end of next season.
If pressed, I would say that it's more likely than not that Ruiz will be with the Phillies past 2013. But, I'm not certain about that point.
It was hardly "news" when the Phillies announced that they had picked up his option. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could subsequently announce a contract extension at any point before next year's free agency period begins.
Depending upon how the upcoming season plays out, Ruiz could be part of the team's resurgence. He could also be traded in another mid-year sell-off.
It seems likely that Amaro will secure Ruiz' services for a few additional seasons if the Phillies return to their winning ways. If next year begins to look like this one did, keeping "Chooch" becomes a more complex choice. Does Amaro stick with him (and proposed backup Erik Kratz), while waiting on various prospects within the system to emerge, or does he leverage the value that his veteran catcher will still have to rebuild the team?
My hope is that number 51 will remain on the roster as the franchise continues its transition. I think that he is the type of player who can be a vital part of future playoff runs. But, President Ruiz will need to see a strong team in front of him in order for that scenario to play out. That's why Amaro's political maneuvering will be crucial during this offseason.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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