SF Giants welcome back power-hitting outfielder on minor league deal

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

The SF Giants bolstered organizational outfield depth on Saturday, welcoming back slugger Darin Ruf on a minor league deal according to the team's transaction page. Ruf will presumably report to Triple-A with the hope of returning to the majors in 2023.

SF Giants welcome back power-hitting outfielder on minor league deal

The Giants originally signed Ruf to a minor league deal prior to the 2020 season. This proved to be a shrewd addition by the front office as he became a staple in the lineup. However, his production regressed in 2022 and he was eventually shipped to the New York Mets in exchange for J.D. Davis, Thomas Szapucki, Carson Seymour, and Nick Zwack.

That move has become a definitive win by the front office. Davis has become a nice addition and while he does not have a ton of defensive versatility, we feel like the Giants need to find a way to keep his bat in the lineup.

Unfortunately, Ruf's time with the Mets did not go as planned. The right-handed bat slashed just .152/.216/.197 (20 OPS+) with no home runs, seven RBI, and six runs in 74 plate appearances with New York following the trade.

The 36-year-old entered spring training with a tenuous hold on a roster spot, but he tallied just five hits in 30 at-bats before being designated for assignment. Ruf carried a cap hit of $3.125 million, so it was no surprise to see that he cleared waivers. The Mets are on the hook for the $3 million owed to Ruf in 2023 as well as a $250,000 buyout for 2024.

Less than 12 months after Ruf was involved in a five-player trade, the Giants hold the rights to all five of those players. Ruf is entering his age-36 season and just finished a year in which he posted a .645 OPS in 388 plate appearances, so it will be interesting to see if he has anything left.

The Giants originally deployed Ruf against left-handed pitching, and he still had a knack for hitting lefties in 2022 as he registered a .222/.322/.430 line with nine homers in 183 plate appearances. That could be a role that he assumes yet again.

That said, the Giants are expecting to welcome back a pair of right-handed-hitting outfielders soon enough, so they would need to endure a handful of injuries in the outfield before Ruf becomes an option. It is a no-risk move. The Giants made the same no-risk move a couple of years ago and that paid immediate dividends.