What to Make of Nationals Locking Up Keibert Ruiz Long-Term

The Washington Nationals have locked up a key piece of its future this weekend. Catcher Keibert Ruiz and the Nats reportedly agreed to an eight-year extension (per Wow Deportes) that will buy out several of the 24-year-old’s post-arbitration seasons. With Ruiz in D.C. for the long haul, here’s a closer look at the catcher.

Related: Five Pitching Prospects Who Are Turning Heads in 2023 MLB Spring Training

A Look at Ruiz

Acquired from the Dodgers in the July 2021 megadeal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to Los Angeles, catcher Keibert Ruiz was considered to be one of the game’s top prospects from 2019-2021. But with Will Smith entrenched behind the plate for the Dodgers, Ruiz’s inclusion in the deal made sense given the lack of room on LA’s depth chart. Now, the Nationals get to reap the rewards.

Last season with the Nationals, Ruiz batted .251/.313/.360 with seven home runs, 29 extra base hits, and 36 RBIs over 112 games (433 PA). Ruiz’s .251 batting average was second-best on the Nationals last season among players with at least 100 games played. Only Josh Bell (.301) had a higher one than the Nationals catcher.

The 24-year-old switch hitter proved to be one of the few bright spots on the Nationals team, thanks to a good approach at the plate, good bat-to-ball skills, and the ability to stay back and drive mistakes. While he didn’t rank among the game’s elite catchers from an offensive standpoint, he has the tools to do so in the near future.

Prior to this deal, Ruiz was still five years away from free agency. This deal buys out the remaining pre-arbitration and arbitration years of the 24-year-old, plus three additional seasons. Not to mention, the deal reportedly comes with two club options that can keep Ruiz in D.C. until the end of the 2032 season.

What it Means

The move to lock up Ruiz is a smart one. For one, the Nationals are only set to pay the 24-year-old an average annual value of $6.25 million. That figure is quite palatable for a catcher that should be able to play 110-120 games on a regular basis and provide a variety of different assets. Even though he hasn’t shown it all too much in the Majors thus far, Ruiz does have good strength and power that should allow him to hit 15-20 home runs on an annual basis. His career high in the Minors, for what it’s worth, was 21 in 2021. Ruiz spent most of that season with Oklahoma City (AAA) in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Not to mention, Ruiz does a good job of controlling the strike zone and making good, consistent contact. In fact, that’s one of his attributes that manager Davey Martinez lauded this spring to reporters. Per Baseball Savant, Ruiz’s framing and pop time numbers aren’t the best. Nonetheless, he should be an adequate defender moving forward.

With Ruiz locked up long term, the Nationals can begin the process of moving the franchise forward after a massive selloff over the past two seasons. Yes, Washington is far away from playoff competition. But, a core of Ruiz, a potential outfield that could include Elijah Green, Robert Hassell, and James Wood, and an intriguing group of pitching prospects can make this process a lot easier.

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