Reportedly, Carlos Ruiz has resigned with the Phillies for three years and nine million dollars, which covers his remaining years of arbitration. Since these are arbitration years, figuring out what the Phillies are paying for isn’t as straightforward as in a free agent signing. The standard way of accounting for arbitration years is to assume that the team will be paying 40, 60, and 80 percent of the player’s actual value. So, spreading the contract evenly over three years and dividing the three million dollar annual salary by 40, 60, and 80%, the “real value” of the contract is about $16.3 million. While earlier in the off-season I assumed something like $4-$4.4 million a win, the market has been settling at closer to $3.5 million. Assuming slight yearly salary inflation and a half-win-a-season decline, the Philadelphia is paying Ruiz as if he’s 1.8 WAR player for 2010. Let’s see if Ruiz stacks up.
Offensively, Ruiz had a good 2009, especially for a catcher, hitting .255/.355/.425 for a .337 wOBA. That was by far his best recent year; Ruiz had a .319 wOBA in 2007 and .279 wOBA in 2008. Moreover, despite this being the first year he was elgible for arbitration, Ruiz just turned 31, an age at which most players are pretty clearly on the decline slope, even if they aren’t dealing with the wear-and-tear of catching. CHONE projects Ruiz for .255/.337/.401, or 8 runs below average per 150 games in context-neutral linear weight, while on his FanGraphs player page you get his nominal linear weights (wOBA/wRAA) at a bit below average (.327 wOBA). ZiPS is less optimistic: .251/.341/.391, which I translate to .324 wOBA, about -2/150. Marcel says: .313 wOBA, -8/150. The fans are the most optimistic: .259/.358/.401, .333 wOBA, +3/150. And, just for the heck of it, my own “system” (I’m wavering between FREDO, GOB, and DAYTON) agrees with Marcel: .313 wOBA, -8/150. That’s a lot of messy numbers! Let’s take something in the middle and call Ruiz a -4/150 hitter.
Defensively, the Fans Scouting Report had Ruiz as one of the better catchers in 2009, and my own defensive rankings of 2009 catchers also place him near the top at +5.4 runs. CHONE and the Fans both project Ruiz for about +3/150 in 2010.
A proper WAR estimate involves playing time. While most of the linear weights/runs figures I’ve given above are prorated for 150 games, Ruiz is a catcher, he’s 31, and he’s never played more than 117 games in a season. The Fan Projections are particularly useful for this, and have Ruiz projected for 108 games in 2010.
Putting it together, -4 offense, +3 defense, +12 prorated positional adjustment, +20 replacement level, all prorated for 108 games = about a 2.2 WAR player. As we saw above, the Phillies are paying for a 1.8 WAR player, so they got a bit of a bargain, although not as much of a bargain as I initially thought it might be.
Ruiz isn’t Brian McCann or Joe Mauer. Still, while taking arbitration into account lessens the bargain the Phillies are getting, given what teams have been paying for the likes of Bengie Molina, Jason Kendall, and Ivan Rodriguez this offseason, it again illustrates the advantage clubs accrue when they have “merely” average-ish players under club control.