The Brewers announced they have signed first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf to a one-year contract. Right-hander Brandon Woodruff was transferred to the 60-day injured list to open a spot on the 40-man roster while first baseman Luke Voit was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained neck to get Ruf onto the active roster. Additionally, the club optioned righty Colin Rea and recalled fellow righty, Trevor Megill.
Ruf, 36, has had some success as a lefty-mashing specialist in his career, though he’s been struggling a bit over the past year. After a successful stint in the KBO League from 2017 to 2019, he returned to North America by signing with the Giants prior to 2020. In that shortened season and the subsequent campaign, he hit .272/.381/.519 in 412 plate appearances for a 142 wRC+, including a .275/.390/.579 line and 156 wRC+ against southpaws.
Last year, his overall line dipped to .216/.328/.373, which led to a passable 104 wRC+ but that was obviously not as strong as his previous work. After a trade to the Mets, his production cratered, as he mustered a paltry .152/.216/.197 line the rest of the way. The Mets held onto him through the winter but designated him for assignment at the end of Spring Training. Ruf then returned to the Giants and hit a solid .261/.370/.348 in a tiny sample of nine games before landing on the injured list due to wrist inflammation. He was later reinstated from the IL and designated for assignment when the club selected shortstop prospect, Casey Schmitt.
Ruf cleared waivers and elected free agency. Since the Mets initially released him, they are still on the hook for the majority of Ruf’s salary, which is $3M this year along with a $250K buyout on a 2024 option. The Brewers will only owe him the prorated league minimum for any time Ruf spends on the roster, with that amount subtracted from what the Mets pay. That makes it a fairly low-risk move, at least from a financial perspective, as the Brewers see if Ruf can get back to the excellent form he showed a few years ago.
He will effectively be replacing Voit on the roster as the club’s right-handed hitting first baseman/designated hitter. Voit was signed to a one-year, $2M deal for this season but has slumped to a .221/.284/.265 showing so far this year for a wRC+ of just 55. Once one of the most potent power hitters in the league, he led the league in homers in the shortened 2020 season before various injuries seemed to slow him down. He hit an average-ish .230/.314/.412 for a wRC+ of 105 over 2021 and 2022 while bouncing from the Yankees to the Padres and Nationals, going on the injured list for an oblique strain and ongoing knee problems. The Brewers gave him a shot this year but he hasn’t been able to capitalize on it just yet and he might have to battle Ruf for his roster spot whenever his neck strain subsides.
As for Woodruff, his transfer to the 60-day IL doesn’t come as a surprise. He was diagnosed with a Grade 2 subscapular strain in his right shoulder in April and isn’t expected back until late June. He’ll now be ineligible to return until 60 days from his initial IL placement of April 8, which would be early June. Since he wasn’t expected to return until, after that point anyway, this transfer was an inevitable formality.