It's another older free agent we're taking a look at here in the soon to be 35-year old Carlos Ruiz. The longtime Phillies stalwart was one of the best offensive catchers in all of baseball from 2010-2012, posting an excellent .303/.388/.454 triple-slash with 13.2 accumulated fWAR. Of course, his current availbility is due mostly to his subpar 2013 season and advanced age.
Even before the season began, Ruiz was sidelined due to a 25-game suspension for using Adderall, a stimulant that is used most frequently to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. After his return, Ruiz struggled out of the gate to the tune of a .268/.320/.368 line, an 89 wRC+ and 1.4 fWAR. Still better production than your average catcher, but paling in comparison to his hitting prowess of years' past. He did hit much better in August/September (.288/.343/.444) if you're looking for a positive trend. He caught 25% of attempted baserunners and was rated as an above average pitch-blocker, so he's more average than defensive wizard behind the plate.
The Yankees opted against bringing in a quality veteran for the 2013 season and went with the pairing of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli, and 2014's catching situation is no more settled. Stewart is still floating around and J.R. Murphy and Austin Romine figure to be in the mix. But a catcher with a pedigree of Carlos Ruiz would be more comforting behind the plate, and his age would make it so that only a two-year contract would be likely all that was necessary to obtain his services. There is also the question of how interested the Phillies will be to keep Ruiz around, as General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has had an affinity to keeping veterans around who were intergral to their 2008 World Series winning team. So Ruiz could have multiple suitors.
With multiple veteran options at catcher this offseason, the Yankees can choose to bring in an upgrade while also not blocking their catching prospects for an extended period of time. In fact, I would say that a veteran starter/youngster backup combination could be the best for all parties involved as someone like Murphy could learn the ropes as an understudy. Or work on his receiving skills, which always seem to be an issue for Joe Girardi and crew when in comes to youthful backstops.
The Yankees would be buying low on another veteran in Ruiz, but unlike some of their most recent acquisitions he appears to be in good health (DL trips in each of the last five seasons notwithstanding). Betting on a bounceback year from Ruiz could prove to be a savvy move for a team that has a lot of holes to plug and might not be willing to committ the money and years to someone like Brian McCann.
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