The free agent catcher market has options in it besides Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, despite what the last few days might have led you to believe. One such backstop is the Phillies' Carlos Ruiz, whom CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury reports the Red Sox are "quietly doing their "due diligence" on.
Salisbury says that, while Ruiz says he wants to remain in Philadelphia, where he's spent his entire professional career since he was 21 years old, he's also finally looking for the payday that has never come: as Ruiz didn't come to the majors until 2008, and is just now entering free agency for the first time, he's made all of $14 million in the bigs. As a 35-year-old in 2014, this is Ruiz's chance to get paid.
According to Salisbury, Ruiz is looking to double his $5 million salary from 2013, which certainly puts him in the realm of affordability for the Red Sox. He'd be something of an in-between for Salty and McCann, as McCann could end up signing for anywhere between $75 million and $90 million, if not more depending on the desperation of any one franchise, while Saltalamacchia's somewhat inconsistent track record, comparatively, likely has him looking at something more in a Russell Martin in terms of AAV, around $8.5 million per year.
Ruiz possesses a 117 OPS+ over the last three seasons, but it's worth noting much of that came from a ridiculous 2012 in which he hit .325/.394/.540. That being said, he still possessed a 108 OPS+ in 2011, and while he finished at 90 in 2013, was much better over the season's final two months, to the tune of .289/.346/.450. Ruiz might not have Salty's power, but he will likely best him in on-base percentage even in a down year, and his defensive reputation is better. It's not quite McCann's, but that's why he won't cost $15 million or more per season, nor a draft pick.
That compensation pick might be the main reason for the Red Sox to bother to get in on the Ruiz market. Just for the sake of the hypothetical, let's say the Sox sign Ruiz, along with just one of the three players they submitted qualifying offers to -- let's go with the most likely, Mike Napoli. The Red Sox would already have a center field replacement in place (Jackie Bradley Jr.), the same first baseman as 2013 in Napoli, Will Middlebrooks at third, Xander Bogaerts at short, and Ruiz behind the plate. They would also have two compensation picks in the first round in addition to the second-to-last regular pick in the draft, giving them a massive draft budget on top of already having a few of their off-season questions answered.
There are risks, of course, namely Ruiz's age and recent injury history, especially in conjunction with current Red Sox catcher David Ross' own age. The Red Sox have plenty of depth behind the plate in case of injury, however, and if Ruiz tails off towards the end of any deal, that depth -- namely Christian Vazquez and eventually Blake Swihart -- could be ready to start anyway.