Cameron Rupp is having a really good season. This is probably something you have heard already. In the middle of season where offensive production has been lackluster to say the least, Rupp's contribution is like the woman in the red dress - she sticks out and makes you do a double take.
There's a problem though. Cameron Rupp is a catcher. That's the same position that the team's arguably best prospect, Jorge Alfaro, also plays, one who seems just about ready to begin his major league career. Heck, for the first time in what seems like forever, they even have another highly regarded prospect at the position, Andrew Knapp, who is a level ahead of Alfaro and might also be ready to don the tools of ignorance for the parent club in the near future.
It's a great "problem" to have. When people go about discussing how to fix said "problem", they say that you trade from a position of depth in to order to replenish a position of need. Most times, these types of problems (depth) usually have a way of sorting themselves out (promotions, ineffectiveness, injury, etc.)
So what should the Phillies be doing about their "problem"? (A brief aside: HOW AWESOME IS IT THAT THE PHILLIES HAVE A DEPTH PROBLEM AT ANY POSITION?!?!?!?)
A popular idea that is gaining traction among the internets is that trading Rupp is a solution, allowing Alfaro to ascend to catching throne, where he will rightfully begin his career living up to his nickname "The Legend". The team could sign a veteran to assist Alfaro in his transition, whether that be the incumbent A.J. Ellis, old favorite Carlos Ruiz, or some other grizzled old-timer, and be blessed with an enviable catching duo.
The reasons for trading Rupp, as far as I've seen, are usually the same as they were for Ken Giles: he's young, he's productive, and he's cheap with lots of control left. To determine their truthfulness, let's look at them each individually.
1) He's young
Rupp, as I write this sentence, just turned 28. That's basically toddler-like in catcher years, who generally take more time to simmer in the minor leagues before they are ready to contribute at the big league level. Lest you forget, Chooch was 28 when he finally won the regular catching job in 2007. The main difference between the two is that Ruiz came to the position relatively late in his playing career while Rupp has been catching regularly since he was in college. And as we all know, Henry Jones put it best - "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage." Rupp's odometer is spinning at this point, so the "young" argument doesn't really apply to him.
2) He's productive
Not too many catchers have put up the kind of numbers Rupp has this season. This is a list of all catchers who have produced at least 15 home runs, 50 RBI, 1.5 rWAR and 1.5 WPA since 2000:
As you can see, Rupp has put up some numbers that some of the best catchers in the new millennium would be proud of. He's also 5th in the National League in throwing runners out with a 37.7% caught stealing rate. HIs framing still leave something to be desired (-3.1 framing runs, according to Baseball Prospectus), but the rest of his game - blocking, controlling the run game - ranks as average to above.
The bat seemingly came out of nowhere this year and that's where a lot of the focus will be going forward. Can he maintain this type of power? The .320 BABIP might suggest that his batting line of .254/.308/.457 might just be sustainable. so there is some hope that a new Rupp has been found.
3) He's cheap, with lots of control left
This might be the best reason of all for trading Rupp. This season, he's making the league minimum and will do so again in 2017. He'll be arbitration eligible in 2018 for the first time, meaning he won't be a free agent until 2021. That's four more years of control for a player who plays a position where offense is essentially regarded as a bonus. Matt Klentak had the same opportunity with Ken Giles and turned him into a potential #2 starter, two decent prospects (one a former 1:1 pick) and a guy who soaked up innings this year when asked to by Pete Mackanin. In this economic climate the game is in, that makes for some very solid value.
So, the magical question: what is he worth?
Expecting a Giles-like haul is foolhardy. Rupp does not dominate at his position anywhere near what Giles does, therefore can not be expected to bring back as much in return. In searching MLB Trade Rumors transaction database, it's difficult to peg Rupp since so few catchers coming off of this type of season are traded. Jonathan Lucroy was dealt this trading deadling, but those two players are nowhere near close in ability and value.
The only ones close, really, are prospects. Wilson Ramos was acquired by the Nationals in 2010, who simply had to surrender Matt Capps. John Jaso was acquired by Seattle in the 2011 offseason, and they only had to give up Josh Leuke. So, determining Rupp's value by looking at comps is difficult. If trades are discussed, it'll be interesting to see what the team does value Rupp at.
This will probably be one of the more interesting stories of the offseason. Does the team move the veteran for more depth, hoping the kids are ready? Time will tell.