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Ruiz, Phillies agree to three-year deal

The SportsXchange

Catcher Carlos Ruiz drew heavy interest in free agency but opted to return to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Ruiz and the Phillies agreed to three-year, $26 million contract with a team option for the fourth season. Ruiz will receive a buyout payment of $500,000 if the Phillies decline the option.

Ruiz turns 35 in January, but age hasn't been a detriment in recent deals for the Phillies.

He can also earn bonuses for starting 125 games in any season. Ruiz has only played as many as 125 games once in his MLB career.

The Boston Red Sox showed the most interest in Ruiz, who was one of the top offensive catchers on a crowded catching market that includes Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers' A.J. Pierzynski and Jared Saltalamacchia of the Red Sox.

Ruiz served a 25-game suspension to begin the 2013 season. He tested positive for an amphetamine after a career year in 2012 when he hit .325 with 16 home runs and 68 RBI in 114 games. He hit .268 with five home runs and 37 RBI in 92 games.

The move continues the trend of general manager Ruben Amaro to push forward with his win-now mentality.

Since August, the Phillies have shown no aversion to giving big money to players who could be considered in the twilight of their career.

Amaro brought back resurgent second baseman Chase Utley, who bounced back from two injury-plagued seasons to have a solid year for the Phillies, hitting .284 with 16 homers and 69 RBIs while playing in 131 games, his most since 2009. In early August, Utley signed a new contract that could be worth as much as $70 million over five years if Utley hits all the vesting options for the final three seasons of the deal that are not guaranteed.

Utley turns 35 next month.

In addition to signing Ruiz, the Phillies gave 36-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd a two-year, $16 million contract earlier this month. Byrd served a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use. Another positive test would sit Byrd for 100 games.

"It's not about spending, but about getting the right people and pieces," Amaro said last week at the general manager's meetings in Nashville. "There are a lot of things that Marlon brings to the table other than his ability to hit left-handers. At some point, we have to have faith that (Ryan) Howard and (Ben) Revere are going to come back and play and be effective. We have to let the players play."

Howard, who has 25 total home runs in 609 total plate appearances the past two seasons, will be 34 at the 2014 All-Star Break.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins turns 35 on Nov. 27. He is rumored to be on the market, but he suffered through his worst power production year over a full season in his 12-year major league career, hitting six homers and driving home 39 RBIs to go along with a .252 average. Moving him won't be easy -- in great part because he is owed $11 million next season with a vesting option for 2015 that could become guaranteed based on performance.
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