News yesterday the Mariners would acquire Dodgers reserve catcher Carlos Ruiz for a pitcher from their 40-man roster. Later, it was announced the pitcher was left-hander Vidal Nuno.
Ruiz is 38, and had a solid career with the Philadelphia Phillies, throwing out 42% of baserunners with Phillies and Dodgers in 2016. Though he is strictly back-up material now, he should provide quality depth for Mike Zunino, after the M’s declined to pick up Chris Iannetta’s $4.5 millon option. Ruiz provided a solid .264/.365/.348 in 233 plate appearances. He has good throwing and blocking skills, but is below average in pitch framing. Ruiz will make $4.5 million in 2017, and is a free agent after this season.
This represents an upgrade over doing nothing at the catching position. Though Zunino clearly improved at the plate, he is just as obviously a work in progress. If the M’s were to rely on in-house options, they would include light-hitting Jesus Sucre or Tyler Marlette who has not played above the AA level. Adding Ruiz does fill a need, though it’s not clear this is a $4.5 million need given the Mariners budget picture.
We’ll be waving good-bye to Nuno, acquired infamously in the Wellington Castillo trade with the Diamondbacks June 3, 2015. that also brought Mark Trumbo to Seattle. Vidal held up his end of the trade with a 2016 line of 55 games, 58.2 IP, 3.53 ERA, and a well above average ERA+ of 115. His BB/9 was down 15 percent to 1.7, and his K/BB ratio was up nearly an entire strikeout to 4.64. Nuno was a useful pitcher. He ended the season the only left-hander in the Mariners bullpen, but he had a bit of a reverse platoon split, performing better against right-handed batters than lefties.
The M’s traded a away a cheap, cost controlled-reliever, who could start in an emergency. Not a guy who will make or break this bullpen, but not without value.
Not a trade likely to make a highlight reel, but good to see Trader Jerry’s juices flowing. With is his preference for trades over free agent signings, we’re likely to see plenty more. I hear the hum of the trade-o-matic in the basement of Safeco Field.