After fielding offers from other teams, Carlos Ruiz ended up back where he began. The free agent catcher opted to return to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ruiz signed a three-year, $26 million contract with a team option for the fourth season. He would 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 major league 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 included Brian McCann (who signed with the New York Yankees), A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
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 turned 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.
2013: 73-89, fourth place in NL East
TEAM MVP: On a starting pitching staff that largely disappointed, LHP Cliff Lee had a season that was worthy of Cy Young Award consideration. Despite being hampered with poor run support, Lee finished 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.01 walks/hits per innings pitched (WHIP) ratio. In those eight losses, Lee was given five runs of support and the Phillies were shutout five times.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: When the season began, the Phillies were counting on 1B Ryan Howard's full return from a 2011 Achilles tendon rupture to provide some power in the middle of the lineup. However, Howard was never able to get on track and eventually ended up on the disabled list in early July after undergoing season ending knee surgery on his meniscus.
TOP PROSPECT: 3B Maikel Franco didn't start the season on the radar of most Phillies fans. But after a season that saw him hit .320 with 31 homers and 103 RBIs for Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading, the 21-year-old should be in the third base picture for the big club with Cody Asche. He also could end up being trade bait to help fill Philadelphia's numerous needs.
--RHP Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner who was coming off shoulder surgery, signed a one-day contract with the Blue Jays and announced his retirement Dec. 9. Halladay, 36, went 4-5 with a 6.82 ERA in 13 starts for the Phillies this year. He finishes his career with 203-105 record and a 3.38 ERA.
Despite having shoulder surgery, Halladay said having a degenerative disk in his back is what ultimately made him decide to retire.
"It's just made it hard to pitch with the mechanics I want to pitch with," Halladay said. "So, over the last two seasons I've had to change some things, had to do some things different in order to be able to throw the ball and, unfortunately, that's led to some shoulder issues. But the big thing has really been the back."
--C Wil Nieves signed a one-year deal with the Phillies on Dec. 5. The team did not disclose the contract terms. Nieves, 36, takes the place of backup C Erik Kratz, who was traded to the Blue Jays two days earlier. In 71 games for Arizona last season, Nieves hit .297/.320/.369 with one homer and 22 RBIs. He threw out five of 18 attempted base-steals (28 percent).
--RHP Brad Lincoln was acquired by the Phillies in a Dec. 3 deal that sent C Erik Kratz and LHP Rob Rasmussen to the Blue Jays.
Lincoln, 28, went 1-2 with a 3.98 ERA in 22 relief appearances for Toronto in 2013.
Kratz, 33, hit .213/.280/.386 with nine homers and 26 RBIs in 68 games for Philadelphia last season. He will be in the mix to back up new Toronto starting C Dioner Navarro.
Rasmussen, 24, split last season between Double-A and Triple-A in the Dodgers' organization, going a combined 3-11 with a 4.11 ERA in 28 games (24 starts). He moved to Philadelphia in the late-season deal that sent INF Michael Young to Los Angeles.
--INF Kevin Frandsen and the Phillies avoided a potential arbitration case by agreeing to a one-year, $900,000 contract on Dec. 2. The contract includes performance bonuses. Frandsen, 31, hit .234 with five home runs in 2013. He made starts at first base, second base and this base this year, and he figures to be a utility infielder again next year.
--LHP John Lannan, who underwent season-ending left knee surgery in August, cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent. Lannan, 29, had a partially ruptured tendon repaired this summer, but he expects to be ready for spring training. He went 3-6 with a 5.33 ERA in 14 starts for the Phillies this year.
--OF Roger Bernadina, LHP Cesar Jimenez, OF Casper Wells and RHP J.C. Ramirez were outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley as the Phillies cleared four sport on their 40-man roster. Bernadina, Jimenez and Wells all would have been eligible for arbitration this winter. Bernadina, 29, hit a combined .181/.250/295 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 112 games for the Nationals and Phillies this year. Jimenez, 28, finished 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA in 19 outings for Philadelphia in 2013. Wells, 28, appeared in the majors for the A's, White Sox and Phillies this year, batting a combined .126/.186/.147 with no homers and one RBI in 95 at-bats. Ramirez, 25, made his major league debut this year, going 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in 18 relief appearances.
--UT Michael Martinez, RHP Zach Miner, INF Pete Orr and LHP Mauricio Robles were outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley as the Phillies cleared four spots on their 40-man roster. Martinez, 31, played in 29 major league games this season, hitting .175 with three RBIs. Miner, 31, went 0-2 with a 4.40 ERA in 16 games (three starts) for Philadelphia this year. Orr, 34, batted .200 with no RBIs in 15 games for the Phillies in 2013. Robles, 24, made three relief appearances for Philadelphia, posting no decisions and a 1.93 ERA.
--2B Chase Utley 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 five years and $70 million if Utley hits all the vesting options for the final three seasons of the deal that are not guaranteed.
--SS Jimmy Rollins 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.
--OF Domonic Brown was named the club's MVP from the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America after a breakout All-Star season that saw him hit .272 with 27 homers and 87 RBIs in 138 games. Brown's season was hampered at the end by a sore Achilles tendon that the club was very cautious with how his season ended.
--LHP Cole Hamels wasn't the Cy Young candidate that most experts expected him to be at the start of the season in the first year of a six-year, $144 million contract extension, going 8-14 with a 3.60 ERA in 220 innings pitched. Part of the blame was poor run support, but the search for more consistency from Hamels will be a major storyline heading into 2014.
--RHP Kyle Kendrick had the tale of two seasons, going 8-6 with a 3.68 ERA prior to the All-Star break and 2-7 with a 6.91 ERA after the Midsummer Classic before being shut down the final week of the regular season due to arm fatigue. Kendrick is arbitration eligible at the end of the season and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Sept. 28 that the club plans on offering Kendrick a contract for the 2014 season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think health is big. I think getting some of our guys back in the lineup is important. I think our bullpen from the beginning of the season to the end of the season has come around. Hopefully, they can carry that into next year. There are some guys that can keep going into next year." -- 2B Chase Utley, on what it will take to contend in 2014.
After being the cream of the National League East crop for five years and being a consistent contender from 2003 onward, the Phillies slipped back even further in 2013 and suffered their first losing season since 2002 with a 73-89 record a fourth place finish in the National League East.
BIGGEST NEEDS: Two years after the hype about the "Four Aces," it is somewhat surprising that one of the biggest ones that may exist is starting pitching, which struggled in the second half of the season as Philadelphia fell further and further out of the race. "Starting pitching is very much a priority," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg told CSNPhilly.com. "We also need depth in starting pitching. You have the fifth starter and the backup of a sixth and a seventh starter whether at Triple A or built up in the bullpen. That's what's necessary these days to get through the season. So we need to address the depth of starting pitching and the rotation."
ARRIVALS: OF Marlon Byrd (free agent from Pirates), RHP Brad Lincoln (trade with Blue Jays), C Wil Nieves (free agent from Diamondbacks)
DEPARTURE: C Erik Kratz (traded to Blue Jays), RHP Roy Halladay (retired)
FREE AGENTS: RHP Zach Miner, LHP John Lannan
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Kyle Kendrick, RHP John Lannan, LHP Antonio Bastardo, OF John Mayberry Jr., OF Ben Revere, LHP Raul Valdes
The most interesting name on the list could be Bastardo, who is coming off a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.
IN LIMBO: SS Jimmy Rollins, RHP Jonathan Papelbon, OF Ben Revere
Rollins is the biggest name on this list and may be the most difficult to move because of his veteran no-trade rights. However, it is possible that the Phils could listen to offers this offseason. They would like someone to take Papelbon's salary off their hands after the closer's inconsistent season. Revere is arbitration eligible and coming off an injury, but could be attractive to some teams looking for a top of the lineup piece. There are other parts that could be used as trade bait this offseason as well as the Phils need to fill multiple holes.
--RHP Jonathan Pettibone (right shoulder strain) last pitched in the majors in late July.
--OF Ben Revere (right ankle surgery in July 2013) had two screws placed in his foot. In September, he played in instructional league games.
--1B Ryan Howard (left knee surgery in July 2013) had a torn meniscus repaired. He began a hitting and fielding program Aug. 22 in Clearwater, Fla., and spent time with the club on the final weekend of the season in Atlanta.
--LHP Jeremy Horst (left elbow sprain) last pitched in the majors in mid-June. He had a setback in the minors in mid-July.
--RHP Mike Adams (right shoulder surgery in July 2013) had three tears repaired. He is expected to miss part of the 2014 season.
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