If one had to describe Darin Ruf’s tenure with the Mets, it would probably be the Office Space “So what would you say you do here?” meme. Because after watching Ruf play 28 games with the club post-trade deadline, I can’t say the answer to that question is clear. He didn’t do much of anything that proved that he deserved to be rostered or justify the trade that brought him here.
In search of some right-handed pop out of the DH spot at the deadline, and with J.D. Davis languishing in that role, the club decided to swing a trade with the Giants. They swapped Davis for Ruf, hoping that Ruf, who had excelled against left-handed pitchers in San Francisco, would bring some of that same success to the Mets’ lineup, which generally struggled against southpaws. A one-for-one change-of-scenery trade would have made a lot of sense here, but for some reason, the Mets ended up tossing in three minor league pitchers to sweeten the deal. So off to San Francisco went Thomas Szapucki, Nick Zwack and Carson Seymour, and a simple trade became a five-player move for reasons that have still not become clear to me.
Prior to arriving in New York, Ruf was slashing .216/.328/.373 with a 103 wRC+ for San Francisco. However, his numbers against left-handers was far more palatable, hitting .252/.364/.523 with a 150 wRC+ in 111 at-bats against lefties. He was even better against south paws in 2021, slashing .283/.414/.593 with a 165 wRC+ in 113 at-bats. So you can at least follow the team’s logic in acquiring Ruf. But the right-hander being the lone bat they added on deadline day—they acquired Daniel Vogelbach and Tyler Naquin leading up to the actual deadline—was inexcusable when they were in need of far more offensive pop than a replacement-level bat. Unfortunately for the Mets, Ruf wasn’t even that in his tenure with the club.
Things didn’t start off all that terribly for Ruf in orange and blue. As with the other bats they acquired, he got off to a decent-enough start. In his first six games in New York, he contributed six hits in 18 at-bats, including a two-hit, two-RBI game against the Reds on August 9. Over his final 48 at-bats, he would pick up just four hit—all singles. In case you’re wondering, that’s a .083/.179/.083 slash line with a -13 wRC+. No, that’s not a typo. A -13 wRC+. He posted a -1.0 fWAR in 28 games in New York, which would be impressive if it wasn’t so putrid. Despite that, he made it onto the Wild Card round roster against the Padres and started Game 2 against LHP Blake Snell. He did reach base twice, on a walk and a hit by pitch, in three plate appearances, for what it’s worth.
At best, he was a non-factor in the lineup when he was there. At worst, he was a complete liability. He was brought in to add some offensive firepower against left-handers, and he did next-to-nothing against them, thus making his spot on the roster pointless. He ended up hitting .149/.216/.213 with a 28 wRC+ in 47 at-bats against lefties as a Met. The trade was a complete bust, especially when you consider that Davis flourished closer to home in a Giants uniform. The former Amazin’ slashed .263/.361/.496 with eight homers—double what he hit as a Met from April through July—a 142 wRC+, and a 1.0 fWAR across the final two months of the season. It’s hard to imagine he would have provided similar production as a Met, but it’s also hard to imagine he would have been worse than Ruf.
Ruf is under contract for 2023 at $3 million (with a 2024 option), but one has to believe the team will unload him one way or another this winter. He did little to ingratiate himself to the Flushing Faithful during his brief time, and the team should do everything in their power to improve their bench and DH production heading into next season.