August 25, 2016
The Los Angeles Dodgers seem to have a thing for collecting players that denied them a chance at both the 2008 and 2009 World Series. First, it was Shane Victorino, followed by Jimmy Rollins. Then Chase Utley slid back into Southern California.
And finally, today, the Dodgers acquired Carlos Ruiz from the Phillies in exchange for catcher A.J. Ellis, right-handed pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later.
The 37-year-old catcher will join his old pal Utley on a Dodgers team that currently leads the National League West by three games. By making the move, the Dodgers appear to have felt like they needed an upgrade over Ellis at backup catcher behind Yasmani Grandal. Ruiz is hitting .261, compared to Ellis’ .194.
In the last seven seasons (since 2010), Ruiz has a .359 OBP. Among MLB catchers, only Buster Posey (.375) has been on base more frequently. Ruiz's OBP in 2016 is .368. Meanwhile, the departure of Ellis, who has played in Los Angeles since 2008, made for an emotional day at Dodger Stadium:
Ellis described Kershaw as "shocked" by the trade. The two men wept together, he said.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 25, 2016
With his career winding down, the Phillies out of contention, and the team giving more and more playing time to Cameron Rupp behind the plate, Ruiz will get a realisitic chance at a second World Series ring.
“I can still play, I can still call games,” Ruiz said last month. "And I’d definitely like to go back to the playoffs, that’s my goal. I’m hoping that would happen here, but if not, with somebody else. … It’d be tough (leaving). Who knows. But I would be happy to go to a team that’s contending, going to the playoffs.”
The man known as “Chooch” has played his entire 10-year career in Philadelphia, and while he was never the main attraction during the run of five straight division titles, he was always involved.
One of the most popular teammates in the Phillies clubhouse during this era, Ruiz is one of two catchers in MLB history to catch four separate no-hitters (two by Roy Halladay, one by Cole Hamels, and a combined no-no in Atlanta).
"Carlos was such an important part to my growth as a pitcher," Hamels said. "His preparation and instinct as a catcher set him apart as one of the best and I feel fortunate to have pitched with him while we were teammates in Philadelphia. His positive clubhouse personality was infectious and he had great respect for the Phillies organization and the fans."
Perhaps Ruiz’s most memorable moment was a walk-off single that won Game 3 of the 2008 World Series:
"I met Chooch in 2009 for the first time and immediately sensed that he was a special player," Pete Mackanin said. "But more importantly, over the years I grew to know that he is a special person. I'll miss him."
From the Phillies' perspective, the deal was not financially motivated. Once Ruiz cleared waivers last week, Mackanin and general manager Matt Klentak asked Ruiz if he wanted to move to a contender once Los Angeles showed some interest. From there, it was up to Chooch.
"[Ruiz] took a few days to discuss it with his family and got back to us Wednesday in Chicago that he'd be interested in exploring the opportunity and we finalized things with the Dodgers today," Klentak said.
"This deal was not motivated by cash. It was about doing the right thing for Carlos, giving him the chance to get another ring."
Despite growing up in Southern California, Bergjans knows the Philadelphia area well, as he led all of NCAA Division III in strikeouts (111) in 2015 at Haverford College. Pitching for High-A Rancho Cucamonga this season, the 23-year-old has posted a 3-13 record with a 4.98 ERA.
And then there was one. Ryan Howard is now officially the last man standing from the 2008 World F$@%!^& Champions.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann