Rangers Make Free Agency Splash, Albeit Minor, Ink Ruggiano
On Thursday afternoon, the Texas Rangers officially announced the signing of former Texas A&M outfielder, Justin Ruggiano to a one-year, $1.65 million deal plus incentives, as first reported by Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The signing also brings the Rangers to a full 40, meaning any additional signing will require an subsequent roster move.
Ruggiano will turn 34-years-old just eight days after the Rangers open their 2016 season against the Seattle Mariners on April 4, and will serve as the right-handed option to Josh Hamilton in left field. He is not an everyday player by any means, but has potential to fit nicely into the lineup alongside Delino DeShields and Shin-Soo Choo when a left-handed starting pitcher toes the rubber.
A prototypical pull hitter while with the Mariners and Dodgers last season, Ruggiano sent 29 of his 31 hits to left or center field. Although he only appeared in 57 games between the two clubs in 2015, Ruggiano collected 25 hits, five home runs and 11 runs batted in for a .301/.370/.578 slash line during the 38 games and 92 plate appearances. Ruggiano also posted an OPS of .948 over that span.
Ruggiano’s best season statistically came in 2012 while with the Miami Marlins when he appeared in 91 games, clubbed 13 home runs and 36 RBI while posting a .313 batting average and a 2.6 WAR. The batting average and WAR were both career highs.
Over the last four years, the Austin product has produced batting averages of .272, .305, .248, and .330 dating back to 2012 against lefties.
The move is not a big splash into the free agent waters for Jon Daniels and company, but it is one that was expected. The Rangers needed a right-handed bat to platoon with Hamilton and provide a little depth to a position where there is currently little to no flexibility. Although not ideal, Hamilton, Ruggiano and Choo all have MLB experience in center field.
This move could possibly signal JD’s early investment into the Lewis Brinson account.