Imagine telling someone in 2007 that Carlos Ruiz - a serviceable catcher that was most known for his fielding and split time with Chris Coste - would outlast Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Just about anyone at the time would have balked at you, but that may very well be what happens.
According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, the soon-to-be 39-year-old isn't ready to retire yet:
Carlos Ruiz, the irrepressible Chooch, wants to return for a 13th season in 2018 even though he turns 39 in January. Ruiz is currently working out at home in Panama. He keeps himself in terrific shape, and pitchers still like throwing to him. Potential backup for a contender.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 30, 2017
Ruiz spent the 2017 season with the Seattle Mariners. In what may prove to be his lone season with the Mariners, Ruiz slashed .216/.313/.352 in 125 at-bats. According to FanGraphs, Ruiz, who would have a slew of Gold Glove Awards if it weren't for Yadier Molina, was still better than replacement level as a fielder.
Based off of his production alone, it would be hard for Ruiz to find a job. However, he's developed a reputation as one of the best clubhouse influences in the league. Teams with young catchers, especially ones that are willing to carry three catchers on their roster, value veteran presences like Ruiz to tutor their young catchers. The fact that Ruiz, who is from Panama, is bilingual, also seems to work in his favor when many of the most talented young players in the league come from countries where Spanish is the first language.
Of course, the Phillies have two talented young catchers in Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro. Though he needs to walk more, Alfaro appears to possess a bat that has the potential to be elite. The biggest things that he needs to work on as a catcher are his ability to call games and receive the ball, two things Ruiz was (and to a degree, still is) excellent at. His first language is also Spanish. Knapp could certainly benefit from a veteran presence like Ruiz as well. You can at least follow the logic of those that suggest the Phillies offer Ruiz the chance to finish his career in Philadelphia.
The Phillies reported interest in free-agent Carlos Santana perhaps is an indication that they would prefer not to carry three catchers. If they signed someone like Santana, who was once a catcher, they could get production from him at another position, while still having a veteran presence with a catching background to help assist the growth of Alfaro and Knapp.
Santana does have a qualifying offer attached to his free-agency and Spotrac projects that he's likely to make $18 million annually in his next contract. In the latest edition of the 80-08 Podcast, SportsRadio 94 WIP's Jack Fritz and I concluded that while showing interest in Santana makes some sense, he's probably not a fit for the Phillies at this juncture.
Fritz suggested that it may simply make more sense for the Phillies to sign someone like Ruiz and carry three catchers. Last offseason, Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Phillies didn't want to pair Cameron Rupp with either one of their young catchers. That did end up happening, but neither the Phillies progressive front-office or their more traditional previous coaching staff ever seemed especially high on Rupp. Former pitching coach Bob McClure seemed to call Rupp out after he called for a fastball on what ended up being a walkoff home run by Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper in May. It might take a year longer than initially anticipated, but it seems entirely possible that the Phillies do go after a veteran catcher this offseason (which would mean they part ways with Rupp), even if it means that they have to carry three catchers to open the season.
Though there does seem to be a desire from the current regime to move on from players connected to the 2008 World Series championship team, Ruiz would seem to fit the description of a veteran third catcher that can help mentor the team's two younger catchers. A.J. Ellis, who played in 11 games for the Phillies during the 2016 season, could also fit this role, assuming he wants to continue his career. Catasauqua's Anthony Recker could be an interesting non-roster option.
Whether the Phillies are interested in a reunion or not, it feels pretty likely that a few teams will be interested in , at the very least, inviting Ruiz to Spring Training. It wouldn't be shocking, despite his advanced age, for a team to sign him to a major league deal.
He already appears to have outlasted Rollins and Howard as a major leaguer. If Utley retires this offseason and Ruiz does end up playing in 2018, he would complete what would have seemed impossible a decade ago - outlasting the trio that defined arguably the greatest era in the history of the team. That would be no small feat.