Keibert Ruiz, Nationals agree on terms for a 8-year extension

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

After a decade of success, the Washington Nationals are rebuilding following two consecutive losing seasons of 97 or more games. At the trade deadline in 2021, the Nationals’ traded away All-Stars Trea Turner and Max Scherzer. In return, Washington received a big haul, including pitcher Josiah Gray and catcher Keibert Ruiz.

The WowDeportes site broke the news that the Washington Nationals agreed to terms with the rising catcher, Ruiz. The deal reportedly guarantees $50 million over eight years for the Venezuelan product. The contract also includes two club options, and Ruiz and the Nationals could be together for the next decade. It’s a big first step for the Nationals as they look to lock up one of their star young players. There’s no doubt Nationals ownership considers Ruiz their franchise catcher, and he does not turn 25 until July.

Ruiz was a dynamic catcher last season, and before he suffered a season-ending injury with a testicular contusion in September, he hit .251/.313/.360, tallying 36 RBIs, seven homers, and 99 hits.

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that Ruiz switched agents from Scott Boras to the Octagon Agency’s Gustavo Marcano as Talk Nats broke the news just two weeks ago. Boras has represented several key Nationals players over the last ten years, and it is noteworthy that Boras reportedly represents Nationals prospects James Wood, MacKenzie Gore, and Cristhian Vaquero,  but recently lost Ruiz and Luis Garcia to the Octagon Agency.

In fact on December 3, Talk Nats set offseason priorities, and suggested tying up CJ Abrams but doubted that Ruiz, who was previously represented by Boras, could get this done.

“Look to sign CJ Abrams long-term. Now would be the time to do a deal and consider that he is with Roc Nation and not a Boras client like Keibert Ruiz. These two players are part of that young core,” Steve Mears of Talk Nats wrote in December.

“Ruiz with Octagon, is it time for general manager Mike Rizzo to pounce on a Braves’ type of team friendly long-term deal?,” Mears pondered just two weeks ago.

The Nats’ young catcher has played in 143 MLB games, hitting 11 home runs, 52 RBIs, and 25 doubles over his short MLB career. The 24-year-old also has a 93wRC+ and he had a 1.7 fWAR in 2022. Behind the plate last season, Ruiz threw out 20 runners on the base paths, proving he can be one of the more dominant defensive catchers in the major leagues.

“Like I’ve said many, many times, with a deal of this length and this type of money, it’s more about the person that we sign more than the player,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “And we feel very confident that we’ve got ourselves a great person and a great player in Keibert.”

Although it can be hard to comprehend, Ruiz’s contract extension is the first multi-year extension given by the Nationals since 2016. Many fans remember the last big contract the Nationals gave, as in 2016, Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year $175M contract with an opt-out that he exercised and became possibly the worst deal in MLB history with a $245 million deal that runs for four more years.

Of note, this is a long-term commitment greenlighted by Nats’ ownership, and the first deal on the books that will extend beyond the expiration of Strasburg’s deal in 2026. This is how you build a core. Without this extension, Ruiz would have qualified for arbitration following the 2024 campaign and for MLB free agency after the 2027 season. That certainly could have limited Ruiz’s presence into the Nats’ next competitive window. In the past, the Nats waited too long to try to tie up players who eventually departed via free agency.

This Ruiz deal becomes symbolic on this Nats’ franchise that hopefully becomes a trend to show that they have changed how they will try to do business going forward because waiting deep into a player’s tenure as they are sniffing free agency was not working. Proof positive here with Ruiz that this is viable to tie up a player early for the long-term at reasonable dollars is a key with both sides taking a financial risk. While this deal does not guarantee that ownership will spend ‘big’ in free agency after this season, this is the first positive sign we have seen towards the team’s long-term future since the Nats committed $385 million to a pair of pitchers in free agency prior to the 2020 season. A great job by Rizzo and ownership to get this done with the player and his agent.

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