Billy Eppler is the last man with faith in Darin Ruf
The most agonizing New York Mets trade from last year’s deadline was the addition of Darin Ruf. It felt like an overpay at the time, costing the Mets J.D. Davis and three prospects, albeit not terrific ones.
Ruf would go on to struggle throughout his time with the Mets despite being put in the best position to succeed. He was the right-handed platoon partner of DH Daniel Vogelbach. Having survived this far into the offseason, it sounds like the Mets will keep him.
Furthering this belief are the comments made by general manager Billy Eppler.
Mets GM Billy Eppler might be the last man with faith in Darin Ruf
There isn’t too much good spin for the Mets to put on Ruf’s performance last year. Slashing .152/.216/.197 in 74 plate appearances without a single home run, it was a miserable experience to see the Mets go up against a left-handed starting pitcher. Many of us were hoping for a different plan at the designated hitter spot in 2023. Instead, it looks like the Mets are going to do pretty much the same thing.
The club has added Tommy Pham into the mix for some of those at-bats as a right-handed DH. It’s looking like the team will begin the year with a bench consisting of Tomas Nido, Luis Guillorme, Pham, and Ruf.
Ruf’s track record of hitting well against lefties includes a .272/.367/.523 slash line in 706 plate appearances. It seems like the perfect role for him.
Unfortunately, those days of dominance against southpaws could be over. Last season’s .222/.322/.430 performance, with his time as a member of the San Francisco Giants included, is a hint that maybe those days are over with.
By keeping Vogelbach on the roster, the Mets were caught needing to have a right-handed DH option to start whenever they face a lefty. They actually have plenty of available options. Pham or Pete Alonso or even letting Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte take on the DH role regularly could have been perfectly fine.
Instead, the Mets look like they are going to let Ruf fight to keep his roster spot. Unless, of course, Eppler is speaking highly of him for morale or the purpose of finding a taker in a trade. If the Mets pay the Ruf bill, there are teams out there who would take a chance on Ruf.
The leash needs to be short on Ruf this season. It’s a roster spot that could have otherwise gone to Brett Baty. A healthy Danny Mendick could even provide the club with a little more flexibility.
Carrying Alonso, Vogelbach, and Ruf makes every move Buck Showalter does more critical. We can only hope Ruf lives up to the praise from Eppler. It seems like he’s going to get a fair shot to make the club.