Phillies to let Halladay, Ruiz test market

Posted: November 05, 2013

UPDATE: The Phillies announced that they will not make qualifying offers to Roy Halladay or Carlos Ruiz.

From earlier: THREE YEARS and one month ago, Carlos Ruiz carefully stepped over Brandon Phillips' bat and fired to first base. Then he sprinted to the mound and embraced Roy Halladay for the second historic battery hug between the pitcher and catcher in 2010.

In the post-2008 world champions era, the Ruiz-Halladay embraces are arguably the most indelible positive images in the Phillies' last five seasons. Shortly after midnight tonight, both Ruiz and Halladay officially can become former Phillies.

Today is the last day major league teams can extend qualifying offers to their free agents. At 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, free agents are free to sign with any major league team.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has expressed interest in bringing both Ruiz and Halladay back for the 2014 season. But a month has passed and the Phillies' exclusive negotiating period ends today.

The Phils can increase their chances at retaining each player via a qualifying offer, although it's a very expensive risk to take.

Per Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement, teams can guarantee compensation for free agents by extending a qualifying offer. The value of that qualifying offer - essentially a 1-year deal - is determined by taking the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players in MLB.

This winter, the qualifying offer is $14.1 million.

Although the Phillies have not made their intentions public, the team will not extend that qualifying offer to Halladay.

Halladay, who turns 37 in May, is coming off shoulder surgery and back-to-back ineffective seasons. Even if Halladay can regain health in 2014, he's simply not worth what would amount to a ridiculously risky, 1-year deal for a guaranteed $14.1 million.

The Phillies could very well go the same route with Ruiz.

The only arguments for extending Ruiz a qualifying offer is that it would guarantee the team a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere, and it might make him less attractive to the teams the Phils are competing with in an attempt to sign him on the open market. An interested team could be a lot less interested in Ruiz' services if it means parting with their top pick in June's amatuer draft.

Of course, the flip side of making a qualifying offer is the risk the Phillies would run if Ruiz accepted it, forgoing free agency. Ruiz turns 35 in January and $14.1 million for the 2014 season would be more than he made in the last four seasons combined ($13.35 million).

But with more than a couple of big-market teams looking for catchers this winter (the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Braves among them), Ruiz is still likely to receive multiyear offers that would exceed $14.1 million in total value. Ruiz would almost certainly side with more guaranteed money and security.

While it would seem to make sense for the Phillies to avoid a $14.1 million gamble, it might not be as big of a gamble as it appears at first glance. Amaro has said signing Ruiz is a "priority" for the team this winter because the team does not have an internal candidate ready to step in as starting catcher.

"I think mutually we would like to continue the relationship," Amaro said when the season ended.

But at this point, it certainly can't hurt Ruiz to test the open market.

After Brian McCann, Ruiz is arguably the most attractive catcher on the open market. The Phillies can at least protect themselves from losing him without compensation today.

As one of the teams that finished with one of the 10 worst records in baseball, the Phillies can move forward pursuing other teams' free agents without worrying about draft-pick compensation. The top 10 picks in the draft are protected.

The Phillies are likely to seek upgrades in the outfield and starting rotation. Even if their respective teams making qualifying offers, the Phillies can pursue the likes of Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz and pitchers Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco without forfeiting a draft pick.

The Phillies lost their top picks in three of the last four drafts after signing Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee and Raul Ibanez as free agents.

Pitching coach search

A month after firing Rich Dubee, the Phillies are still searching for a pitching coach.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Phillies were ready to make a multiyear offer to Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell. But on Saturday, 2 days after McDowell's contract with the Braves expired, Atlanta re-signed him for 2 years.

McDowell, who pitched for the Phillies from 1989-91, has spent the last eight seasons with the Braves.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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