WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals will announce an eight-year, $50 million extension with Keibert Ruiz on Saturday afternoon, a source familiar with the terms confirmed this evening, a move that not only locks up the young franchise catcher but represents the first financial commitment of this type by ownership since it began exploring the possibility of selling the club one year ago.
The deal, which was first reported by Wow Deportes, locks Ruiz up long before he would’ve become a free agent. He was under club control five more seasons, so this buys out those years plus three years of free agency, keeping him in Washington through at least 2030.
It’s the first time the Nationals have been able to convince a young player to sign an extension of this type since Gio González agreed to a five-year, $42 million deal immediately after he was acquired from the Athletics via trade in December 2011. The only other player in club history to sign a comparable extension was Ryan Zimmerman, who signed a five-year, $45 million deal in April 2009.
Both González and Zimmerman were already arbitration-eligible at the times of their respective extensions. Ruiz is the first player in Nationals history to agree to this type of deal before reaching arbitration.
One of the two centerpieces (along with right-hander Josiah Gray) of the blockbuster July 2021 trade that sent franchise icons Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers, Ruiz impressed in his first full major league season, batting .251 with 22 doubles, seven homers and a .673 OPS while throwing out 22 baserunners, second-most among all MLB catchers.
The 24-year-old Venezuelan has been hailed as one of the cornerstones of the Nationals’ roster rebuild, one club officials believe can grow into an All-Star at an important position.
Of particular note: Ruiz had just recently left Boras Corp. for Octagon, which announced two weeks ago it was now representing him. The Nats had struggled for years to lock up Boras clients to long-term deals, ultimately losing Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon to free agency and trading Juan Soto at last summer’s deadline. (They did twice re-sign Stephen Strasburg, another Boras client, though his latest $245 million extension has become a huge albatross for the organization due to the right-hander’s injuries.)
Ruiz also becomes the first player to sign anything beyond a two-year deal with the Nationals since the Lerner family began exploring a potential sale of the franchise last spring. With that kind of uncertainty hovering over the entire organization, it had long been wondered if either a player or ownership would be willing to commit long-term until that larger situation was resolved.
This deal doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the nine-figure contracts those previously named star players commanded, but it is something of a gamble for both the Nationals and for Ruiz. The Nats are locking up a young catcher before he has truly established himself, and Ruiz is preventing himself from negotiating a potentially bigger deal down the road if he does realize his full potential.
It’s the kind of deal the Nats have watched other organizations – most notably their division rivals in Atlanta – pull off routinely in recent years. Now, for the first time, they’ve managed to pull off one of their own, perhaps establishing a new trend as they attempt to climb the mountain back into regular contention again.