Yes, the Phillies overpaid for Carlos Ruiz in signing him to a three-year, $26 million contract, but the deal strikes me more as the cost of doing business in their situation rather than a wildly irresponsible deal. The club had put itself in a situation where Ruiz was the only catcher who made sense for them, for a variety of reasons. One, he is a right-handed bat, which people seem to gloss over sometimes, but which, in reality, is a big deal. Ryne Sandberg already had five left-handed bats who seemed likely to enter the season as everyday players: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown, Cody Asche and Ben Revere. Plus, Jimmy Rollins has not hit particularly well from the right side of the plate over the last two seasons. If the Phillies were to add a left-handed hitting catcher, they would be forced to run out a lineup like this:
1. Ben Revere
2. Jimmy Rollins
3. Chase Utley
4. Ryan Howard
5. Marlon Byrd
6. Domonic Brown
7. A.J. Pierzynski
8. Cody Asche
Just about any way you maneuver the pieces, an opposing bullpen would have an opportunity to face three left-handed hitters in a row. Against a bullpen with a tough LOOGY, that's like giving away an inning. It just isn't feasible.
So Pierzynski was not a viable option. Nor was Brian McCann. Nor, it would seem, was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is technically a switch hitter, but whose numbers are awful from the right side of the plate. That left the Phillies with the option of Ruiz, or with a catcher with little offensive upside like Kurt Suzuki or John Buck, or with someone like Dioner Navarro who has not played everyday for quite sometime.
The Phillies essentially put themselves in a position where they had to overpay for Ruiz when they resigned Utley, which meant an inability to add a righthanded bat like Jhonny Peralta or Omar Infante at the position, which might have freed them up to sign a left-handed hitting catcher.
Ruiz's agent, Marc Kligman, knew this, and he used it to his full advantage. In a lot of ways, this situation was like the Rollins situation a couple of offseasons ago. But, like the Rollins situation, this one is teneable because the player in question plays a premium defensive position. Even if Ruiz is no longer an everyday player in the third year of the deal, he could still provide some utility as a veteran backup. Keep in mind, the going rate for such a player is between $3 million and $4 million right now. All things considered, this is not an awful deal.