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Chooch and the Qualifying Offer

Posted by Eric Seidman, Fri, September 06, 2013 11:14 AM | Comments: 20
Acquisitions, Analysis, Commentary, Statistical Analysis

The Phillies have a multitude of roster-related problems to solve this offseason, as Ian Riccaboni pointed out, but the catching situation is perhaps the most interesting. Carlos Ruiz is set to become a free agent, and while his early struggles rendered his return less likely, his .330/.375/.536 line since August 1 makes him an attractive option. While prospects Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle have disappointed, Cameron Rupp earned a September call-up, Gabriel Lino posted decent context-neutral numbers in Low-A as a 20-year old, and the Phils are very high on second-round pick Andrew Knapp.

It’s possible that Rupp or Knapp seizes the catching reins as soon as 2015 but that still leaves next year as a question mark. While the Phillies have been major players in free agency in recent years, the upcoming catching crop is fairly thin, and is loaded with career backups. Trades for starting catchers are also fairly rare.

Everything considered, the ideal situation is to retain Carlos Ruiz on a short-term basis.

With Rupp and Knapp on the horizon and a rebuild in order it’s not prudent to re-sign Chooch to a multi-year deal. However, it’s likely that he will receive a multi-year offer from someone else, as one of the top two free agent catchers.

Extending Ruiz the qualifying offer could solve the problem on both sides. If he accepts, having him around for 1 yr/$14 million isn’t the worst thing in the world. After all, the Phillies problem is typically guaranteeing too many years, whereas I would have gladly paid certain players more money per annum if the deals were shorter. If he declines, the Phillies will at least receive some form of compensation when he departs for greener pastures. If he declines, they can pair a prospect with a veteran backup and go from there. It’s a lot of money for a 35-year old who may only play 110 games, but if other teams are willing to bid on him for two-years, perhaps the higher salary on a one-year deal could entice him.

Another option is sign Ruiz to a two-year deal with a lower annual value and hope that his desire to stay with the Phillies outweighs a couple million dollars more he could earn on a similar deal elsewhere. In this scenario, Chooch would be the primary guy for 2014 before transitioning into mentor and trade bait the following season.

While Ruiz served a suspension earlier in the year and struggled out of the gate, he has torn up the league lately and remains atop the list of free agent catchers. From 2011-13, his 9.7 WAR leads the group by a relatively healthy margin over Brian McCann‘s 8.4.

While it’s easy to assume that Ruiz’s advantage stems from McCann’s health issues in recent years, the latter has actually played 14 more games over this span. Since 2011, Ruiz has hit .297/.369/.440, with a +5 fielding rating. McCann is at .256/.331/.447, with a +6 rating behind the plate. These are, statistically, the top two free agent catchers this offseason. McCann will absolutely sign a multi-year deal but the Phillies have no need to sign another aging player to a big deal. McCann is also a lefty and the Phils are loaded with them.

After Ruiz and McCann comes A.J. Pierzynski (old, left-handed) at 6.1 WAR and Jarrod Saltalamacchia at 5.9 WAR. Salty is young, and while he has had a decent season, he isn’t particularly great at anything. Though he switch-hits, he strikes out 30% of the time.

Then the list gets pretty ugly, with guys like John Buck, Geovany Soto, Kelly Shoppach and Kurt Suzuki, before giving way to the ugliness that is Ramon Hernandez, Humberto Quintero, Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Brayan Pena, and basically anyone else you would associate with being Greg Maddux‘s personal catcher if he were still around.

Ruiz represents the best option of all these players, even if he remains a .280/.325/.380 hitter moving forward. That bat has plenty of value when coupled with his upper echelon defensive skills and game-calling. He is definitely worth bringing back, given the Phillies current situation, but the issues are length, salary, and the impact on catching prospects.

There are worse things than pairing Rupp with, say, Gerald Laird for a year before reevaluating the situation if they opt against bringing him back. Chooch provides the Phillies with a better chance to compete than does the prospect/veteran tandem, and if he performs well while Rupp produces at Lehigh, Ruiz might become decent deadline trade-bait, regardless of the deal’s length.

The qualifying offer may restrict the Phillies elsewhere in free agency, and if they can acquire more than that 2-2.5 WAR by filling other needs, while spending less money, the qualifying offer gets dicey. Inversely, if he plays very well and the Phillies can deal him for a decent return, there is surplus value involved that can’t be innately identified right now.

The Phillies don’t have a clear-cut catching solution for 2014. Chooch is a right-handed bat capable of getting on base at an above average rate while adding defensive value. His skills won’t persist for four more years, but on a one- or two-year deal he will certainly benefit the Phillies, either with his own performance, through mentoring youngsters, as trade bait, or all of the above.

Avatar of Eric Seidman

About Eric Seidman

Eric Seidman has written 64 articles on Phillies Nation.

Eric offers his unique analytical perspective to Phillies Nation and is a regular contributor on FanGraphs.com.

 
 
  • Posts: 23 DadsInKeyLargo

    Avatar of DadsInKeyLargo

    I agree with the premise of not worrying about the money, as long as you do not tie yourself up with a lengthy contract.
    You make an excellent case for giving Chooch a QO.

     
  • Posts: 0 Steve

    Doesn’t make sense to me as you can probably sign Chooch to a 2 yr/14 and you would have Chooch mentor Rup in 2015 or he’s trade bait and I believe you can probably get him for less than 2/14. He has value defensively for a two year deal. No more than 2 and no 3rd year option unless it club only with a 1 mil buyout.

     
    • Posts: 0 Hogey's Role

      I agree I sign chooch to a two year 10 million deal with incentives to push it to 15 million… let Rupp back up next year then if he’s ready take over in 2015… of course by then valle or Joseph could be ready…

      No way do I offer chooch a q.o though, that’s crazy, he’s a great defensive catcher and a very capable hitter but 14 million is a lot of coin for him…

      A week or so ago I was all for saltalamacchia, however now I’d rather bring chooch back and have him tutor Rupp, valle, or Joseph, whoever is ready…

      Of course with all of Joseph’s concussions I think it might be smarter to switch him to first and groom him to take over for Howard someday…

       
  • Posts: 5231 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Eric, You make a great case as usual, but this time, I’m not on board. Your reasoning is solid, numbers accurate, and yet- I just can’t quite buy in. I’m not even sure why, maybe because it just looks like way too much money, even for one year. I agree with the premise of signing shorter deals for more money. I was all about making Hamels the highest paid pitcher in baseball- for 2- maybe 2 and an option as I really dislike his contract now. My idea was panned by the masses, I was told it was ridiculous to even think about making such an offer, so I’m definitely with you on the the premise, just not in this case.

    A few questions- If the Phillies really are interested in keeping him, why haven’t they locked him up yet? Is it because they have tried and his agent won’t go for it? Is it because he was below average at the plate until his late season surge that -frankly- no one saw coming? Which is the outlier? Chooch for most of the season? Or the last month? Is he really a $14m a year player? I don’t know, but I don’t think so.

    I should end by saying that I’m a big Ruiz fan, and hope something reasonable can be worked out, as has been suggested in some comments above.

     
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      Lefty,

      I actually don’t know specifically which side I’m on board with. I like the Q.O. only in the sense that his recent performance and defensive reputation could lead some team to give him a 2/$20 or something like that, and I would rather overpay him for one year to retain him if that came to pass. If he’s going to get a bunch of 2/$12 offers, I’d do that over the Q.O., but, I don’t know, something tells me there is a team out there that will value his playoff experience, game-calling, general defensive, above average OBP, and occasional pop, and give him a nice deal for two years.

       
  • Posts: 0 Jaron B

    I like the qualifying offer if we can’tr extend him before the QO deadline. Scenarios:
    A) He accepts qualifying offer. It’s a bit high, but he’s no longer an unknown with his 2.5-3.0 WAR. And we only have him for a year.
    B) He declines and re-signs for $10MM per year (1-2 YRs with a vesting/ mutual option). That’s a bit long for a two-year deal, but AAV is better.
    C) He declines and leaves. Oh well… Kratz and Rupp are 1 & 2 and we get draft pick compensation. As long as the “rotation” is Kratz for two games, then Rupp, then Kratz and then Rupp (repeats), we should be fine.

     
  • Posts: 0 Evan

    Where is Erik Kratz in this whole equation?

     
    • Posts: 0 Scott

      Who cares where Kratz is in this….

       
  • Posts: 0 Hogey's Role

    Why is it that we only have 31 players on the active roster when we’re allowed 40 right now?? Lets get a look at some other guys to see what we have??

     
    • Posts: 0 Vinnie

      40 is allowed, but by doing so it would start their service “clock” as well.

       
      • Posts: 0 Hogey's Role

        Who cares, we need to know who to put on the 40 man to protect for the rule 5 draft, lets see what we have, 20 days of service time is nothing…

         
      • Posts: 0 Vinnie

        Revere and Wells are on the 15 day.. so they count against the 40.

        Bastardo.. Suspended.

        Amount and Valdes.. don’t really need to see them.

        Gonzalas.. just signed him, not sure if he’s available.

        That leaves Valle, Collier, and Gillies. I suppose we could bring them up.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        They could bring them up, or they’ve seen enough over the past season or two and a few September appearances aren’t going to make a difference one way or the other.

         
      • Posts: 0 Hogey's Role

        valdes should be dfa’d to open a spot for Rasmussen or ogando, we should get a look at guys who could potentially be plucked in the rule 5 draft, because we could lose someone, or we might non-tender somebody and have another nate schierholtz on our hands… call up valle and collier, I think gillies is on the dl right now, but see if anybody has any life to them, release michael Martinez for the love of god….. what will these moves hurt????

        if we aren’t going to look at them now then just get them off the 40 man roster now, dont waste space

         
  • Posts: 0 George

    If the Phils give Ruiz a qualifying offer, they’re stuck with him at a rather high price, because no other team will offer him that much. At his age, I think the highest free agent offer would be about 2years/$15M, and that’s probably not enough for him to go elsewhere. It’s not that he wouldn’t be useful, but 14M would be a huge overpay and could hurt his trade value later in the year should they decide someone else is ready to take over. But if the Phils lose him, I don’t think it’ll be the end of the world, and certainly not the end of a team that probably won’t contend next year whether Ruiz is with them or not.

     
  • Posts: 0 Steve

    I’m having difficulty seeing the rationale here. Ruiz would most certainly accept the QO whereas we probably could extend him for 3yrs at the same amount, or at the very least, two years. I see no advantage to extending a QO here. Ruiz is no longer a kid, has struggled with the bat for the better part of the season particularly in the power department, and he now carries the stigma of a suspension for PED use. Even if another team makes him an offer, provided he reaches FA in the first place, can we really expect a team to offer more than 5 or 6 mil per year over two seasons? Rhetorical question

     
    • Posts: 0 Jaron B

      We don’t need him for more than a year or two.

       
  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    SIGN Chooch. We need an experienced catcher. We need to face the fact that the Phils are in the early stages of their free-fall to the bottom of baseball and will not have a winning team in at least three more years. First step: FIRE AMARO and send him packing as soon as possible.

     
  • Posts: 0 DavidE

    I don’t think Chooch’s defense has been up to par this year. Offensively, he was very mediocre for most of the year although he has been very good for the last month or so. But you have to judge him on his full year. There are better catchers who will likely be available. Look, the Yankees are desperate for a catcher and they must have passed on Chooch.

     
  • Posts: 0 jcfprint

    I really don’t care about the money. I’ll let Montgomery and Amaro worry about that. It’s more important to have a solid catcher with a good ops for the next two years.

     
 
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