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Phillies sign Humberto Quintero, can expect downgrade at catcher

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer
Will the signing of Humberto Quintero help Philly's catching situation? (US Presswire)

While GM Ruben Amaro says the move is unrelated to Carlos Ruiz's suspension for amphetamine use, the Phillies have signed catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor-league contract. Obviously, he could see time during Ruiz's 25-game absence.

While the loss of Ruiz for the first 15 percent of the 2013 season is blow to the Phillies, the reality is that they were already facing a downgrade at the position. That's the case whether Ruiz, backup Erik Kratz or the newly inked Quintero is behind the plate.

In 2012, Philadelphia catchers -- Ruiz, Kratz, Brian Schneider and Steven Lerud -- combined for an OPS of .861, which was tops in all of baseball. That's not likely to be sustained. The primary reason, of course, is Ruiz. Never mind the suspension: He was primed for regression even before his sentence was handed down.

Whatever the reasons for his performance spike last season, it's highly doubtful that, at age 33, Ruiz established a new power baseline. In 2012, Ruiz slugged .540 (versus a career SLG of .418) and hit home runs on 15.1% of his fly balls (versus a career rate of 7.6%). As well, he logged a batting average on balls in play of .339 against a career mark of .295. In a younger hitter -- a hitter in his prime seasons -- perhaps you'd see this as the start of something new. However, in 33-year-old Ruiz, it's almost certainly the sign of a fluke, whether PED-fueled or the far more common "just one of those things." Add his almost certain decline to his 25-game time out and you've got a player who may be on the order of two wins worse in 2013.

And speaking of regression, there's Kratz, who had what you might call a "soft breakout" in 2012, as he put up an OPS+ of 114 across 157 plate appearances. Kratz, it should be noted, is 32. He had a history of showing good pop in the high minors, but expecting him to slug more than .500 moving forward is irrationally bullish. Don't be surprised if the 2013 OBP continues to hang around .300 and the SLG slips back to the mid-.400s. More specifically, his homer rate on fly balls of 20 percent isn't going to hold up. Kratz can be a useful backup, but it's possible he'll be half-a-win worse next season.

Quintero? He's a 33-year-old with a career slash line of .234/.267/.323, so he's hardly going to be "sweet relief" while Ruiz is out.

On the whole, you're looking at a catching situation that should be two to three wins worse next season. For the 81-81 Phillies, who are looking to add 10 or so wins to that total in 2013 and thus contend, that's not a promising forecast.

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