Veteran corner bat Darin Ruf is eligible for arbitration, but what are the odds that the SF Giants tender him a contract?
The SF Giants must decide whether to tender contracts to 11 arbitration-eligible players before the December 2, 2020 deadline. After a surprise season in 2020, will the Giants see Ruf with the Orange and Black next season?
Darin Ruf Before 2020
The Philadelphia Phillies originally drafted Ruf in the 20th round of the 2009 draft. He debuted with them in 2012 and spent the next several seasons in Philadelphia.
In five seasons with the Phillies, the right-handed bat slashed a .244/.314/.433 line (104 OPS+) with 35 home runs and 96 RBI. Furthermore, he boasted an 8.2 percent walk rate against a 27.5 percent strikeout rate.
Following the 2016 season, the veteran outfielder was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a move that sent second baseman Howie Kendrick back to Philadelphia. Ruf never suited up for the Dodgers organization though and spent the next three seasons with the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO)
In those three seasons, Ruf was excellent. He registered a .313/.404/.564 line with 86 home runs and 350 RBI. He hoped to use that experience prepared him for a return to MLB.
Despite his success in the KBO, MLB scouts were still cautious. The KBO is an extremely hitter-friendly league. However, the Giants decided he was worth a flier on a minor-league contract.
Darin Ruf with the SF Giants in 2020
Ruf started pulverizing the ball in Spring Training and never stopped. He made the roster out of camp by having one of the loudest bats. With the expanded rosters and designated hitter in the National League, it was an easy fit.
As the Giants looked to take more advantage of platoon matchups, Ruf’s skill set was one they could leverage. Over the years, Ruf has become a quality platoon hitter considering that he has posted .916 OPS against left-handed hurlers.
That was exactly his role with the Giants, and it was a role that worked out well for the team. Ruf spent the bulk of his time in left field along with Alex Dickerson in a timeshare. As a whole, Giants left fielders produced an outstanding .947 OPS with 13 home runs and 37 RBI. It became one of the most productive positions in a surprisingly good offensive season for the SF Giants.
On the year, Ruf generated a .276/.370/.517 line (143 OPS+) with five home runs and 18 RBI in 100 plate appearances. He also produced solid underlying numbers with an 89.4 MPH exit velocity to go along with a 12.5-degree launch angle. Despite the small sample, Ruf did a lot of good things with the bat.
He exceeded expectations, and he became a player I enjoyed watching at the plate. He had a good approach and controlled the strike zone well. Plus, he was a clutch bat all season:
In the field, he had a few defensive miscues, but he was worth -2 DRS and -1.0 UZR, so he was at least passable in left field.
Should the SF Giants Tender a Contract for Darin Ruf in 2021?
This is a tough one, and Ruf’s raise through arbitration will be modest. With that being said, the Giants have quickly built up a roster of quality right-handed bats. Given that the roster size will be reduced back to 26 players next year and the DH is not set in the National League in 2021, I think the Giants will not tender Ruf a contract in 2021. Or, if they do, they’ll look to trade him for a piece that better fits the roster.
He is not the most versatile player, and with a 26-man roster, they will likely put a premium on versatility. Normally when a team decides to non-tender a player, a reunion is unlikely. I think Ruf is comfortable with Farhan Zaidi and the Giants direction so that he may return on a minor league deal.