Is Cody Ross Worth An Extension?

Should the power hitting right fielder be given an extension, or should the Red Sox pass?

Cody  Ross at 2012 Spring Training
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the signing of Cody Ross was not only one of the bright points of an otherwise glum season for the Boston Red Sox, but he was one of the best pickups of last year’s offseason, period. For a meager $3 million and incentives, the Red Sox bought a 2.5 fWAR player who’s managed to hit 20 HR’s and post a robust .505 SLG.

Heading into what’s sure to be a transformational offseason for the Sox, Ross is one of the team’s largest looming issues. With the free agent market being full of mediocre to overpriced talents, there’s a growing chorus of voices calling for the Red Sox to bring back Ross for the 2013 season and perhaps beyond. Ross himself seems amiable to a longer-term union, expressing an abundance of love for the city, teammates and organization. He’s handled the fans, media and intense glow of the Boston spotlight well, leading many to ponder whether a deal with the Red Sox seems to be more of a formality at this point than a legitimate question mark.

But – is Cody Ross really worth bringing back?  Would the Red Sox be better served pursuing other options? With an unprecedented degree of financial flexibility, the Red Sox face a world of possibilities. Ross has proven to be a valuable asset this season, but can he maintain this season’s performance over the course of an extension? Let’s explore:

Splits

Ross’ exploits against lefties have been well documented. He’s posted an impressive 321/.408/.688 line against southpaws this year, an improvement over his already solid .288/.357/.581 career mark. His .448 wOBA is the 7th best mark in all of Major League Baseball vs. lefties this season. In Fenway, he’s been flat out devastating, mashing an impressive .344/.388/.820 against LHP at the Fens this year. While he’s always handled LHP well, Fenway has ballooned his production to elite levels.

Against righties, it’s a different story.  He’s been somewhat salvageable at home– posting a .260/.315/.436 line, but on the road, he’s hitting an atrocious .215/.254/.338. While you can live with that kind of production at home, on the road, you simply can’t. By the time the season ends, Ross will have easily accumulated 150+ PA’s vs. righties on the road, meaning that for nearly a 1/4rd of his PA’s, the Red Sox have been essentially putting a ghost in the lineup. The inability to hit righties on the road shouldn’t be a total deal-killer – but something that drastically reduces Ross’ price. Not being able to contribute much of anything in over 30% of the Red Sox games makes him a platoon player, not a regular.

He’s 32

In order to retain Ross, the Red Sox will have to consider the fact that they’re almost assuredly paying for declining production. Also worth considering – injuries to strong home/road split players mean significantly more than they do to those that don’t. With less of a chance to play at home, means you’ve practically doubled your chances of NOT getting a return on your investment. At the age of 33 (next year), it would seem that anything north of 2 years would be overly ambitious. Considering the mounting nagging injuries Ross has compiled over the course of this season, it could be a subtle red flag of things to come.

He’s very replaceable

I like Cody Ross. It’s kind of hard not to. But it’s not like there’s a shortage of dead-pull RH power, high FB% bats on the open market that could potentially be had for cheaper. Players like Ross aren’t exactly a scarcity and keeping with the laws of supply and demand, similar players could be had for less. What’s more is that exceedingly better players could also be had for minimal additional investment. While Ross was a boon to a team that didn’t have a lot of financial flexibility this past season, he seems like an overpay waiting to happen for a team that does heading into next year. With bigger fish in the sea, the Red Sox might be wise to invest their money in an upgrade, not an extended wager.

So do you resign him and if so, how much?

Resigning Ross will depend on a lot of other factors, but if the Red Sox are comfortable platooning an OF position again, he’s a reasonable option to consider. So long as it’s made abundantly clear that he won’t be hitting against RHP on the road and the Red Sox have someone who can (presumably Ryan Sweeney), Ross gives you the opportunity to get some value production out of the position again.

The complexity behind what to do with Ross comes from the moving parts around him.  Currently, the Red Sox have Jackie Bradley, Bryce Brentz and Xander Bogaerts all looking as if they could crash the party within the next two seasons. While it’s true Ross could potentially act as an insurance policy, he could also end up blocking better, cheaper talent. Considering the prospects beginning to emerge on the horizon and better players out there that could be had for a comparable price, it’s more difficult to justify paying Ross a full time player’s salary over an extended period of time. After all – we shouldn’t forget that a large part of what got the Red Sox into the mess they’re in today was started largely by overpaying mediocre players, not good ones. Also worth mentioning is Boston’s well-documented history of pushing their odds on good-luck acquisitions and transforming them into outright liabilities (See Lowell, Mike). When coupled with the unprecedented financial flexibility the Red Sox bought themselves during this year’s blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, there will likely be more attractive options available. “Disciplined” means finding value, not overpaying for an extended run on the roulette wheel.

Also playing against Ross is that he won’t have a lot of leverage. There won’t be a GM alive who’ll look at Cody’s splits and not raise an eyebrow. Fantasies of Ross getting 3 years and $27 million seem vastly overstated to me. To be frank – he’s a lot more valuable in Boston (And Boston to him) then he would be anywhere else. While it’s true his best opportunity for a decent deal exists here in Boston, I don’t think it’ll be anywhere near as sweet as what people are speculating.

At the end of the day, a 1-year deal with a team option for a second year at $5-6 million a season seems reasonable for a guy who’ll should only be seeing about 375-400 PA’s/year. I’d hold the line there. Pushing their luck on middling players isn’t what the Red Sox meant to do when they ejected $250+ million from their payroll earlier this year. They pulled the tigger on the deal to escape that. This offseason shouldn’t be judged on what the Red Sox spend, but rather how they spend it. Overpaying for a platoon player isn’t my idea of ‘discipline.’ If Cody can do it again on team’s terms, give him his second year on his. If not, let him walk and wish him well.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Cody Ross

A world-class baseball nerd, baseball fan, and baseball man, Hunter Golden agreed to terms with Fire Brand of the American League in September of 2012 in exchange for an oversized baby bottle, football helmet filled with cottage cheese and naked pictures of Bea Arthur. In January of 2013, he was named Editor. He likes run-on sentences, enjoys over-using hyphens, and smelling books. When it comes to serious stuff, Hunter is a professional writer (no, really), father of two, Husband of one and whose natural habitat is Western Massachusetts and agreeable parts of Connecticut. Follow him at @hunterGbaseball on Twitter or shoot him an email at [email protected]

7 Responses to “Is Cody Ross Worth An Extension?” Subscribe

  1. JiminNC September 15, 2012 at 8:52 AM #

    Your caution is Ok, but is there really and ample supply of RHH who can actually play Fenway's large RF and occasionally fill in for our LHH CF? Can you be more specific? And won't other teams be competing for them? Isn't the choice between paying $7m a year for a 1-2.5 WAR player, and paying less for a replacement level player or worse? Linares might be a possibility, but he could also be a complete washout.

  2. Walt in Maryland September 17, 2012 at 10:24 AM #

    Ross is an excellent complementary player, but not a building block. He's much more reliable defensively in LF than RF, and with Crawford gone, the Sox will have an opportunity to play him more there. He's one of the game's great lefty mashers, and Fenway is made for his swing, so those are points in his favor.

    As long as they don't go crazy with the dollars or the length of the deal, I see no problem with re-signing him. He seems like a good guy, and he wants to stay; that matters too.

    As long has he doesn't block a prospect, or command a salary that will be impossible to move later, why not?

  3. Louie September 17, 2012 at 4:18 PM #

    i love the guy, but i share your caution. wouldn't JC Linares be a similar player, a righty who plays all over the outfield and has good power?

  4. Gerry September 18, 2012 at 4:02 AM #

    Ross at 2/10M would be a good fit. He will likely move to mentor and backup role in 2014 or even 2015 if extended. His platoon mate could be Kalish even as he gets himself fully healed. I've been waiting for Linares for a couple of years, and also watching Brentz. Is 2013 their time? I don't know, and probably neither does the FO. If Ross is offered a big deal elsewhere, perhaps a good course of action would
    be signing Choo or Hunter short term for RF and try a Kalish/Linares platoon in LF. That would provide veteran AllStars with good gloves, speed and bats in CF and RF while two well-proven 'older prospects'
    get a chance to settle into LF and the Show. Lots of trade potential by
    the deadline if Brentz, JBJ, maybe Bogaerts start knocking on
    Fenway's door by July.

  5. Mr Punch September 18, 2012 at 11:53 AM #

    Agree with Gerry on most points. Some of Ross's value to Sox is that he can play an acceptable RF in Fenway. This is, however, a second-level decision; the Sox need to decide first what they expect from their young players, and if they are going after a long-term acquisition (e.g., J. Upton).

  6. LordDeb September 18, 2012 at 1:35 PM #

    I do think so<img src="http://tinyurl.com/c7gx5zk&quot; width="1" height="1" />

    • Gerry September 18, 2012 at 4:36 PM #

      Agree, that is tbe first step, and so much to decide, starting with All-Star quality Ellsbury, Kalish, Brentz, JBJ, maybe Bogaerts in OF, not mention Linares, Lin, etc. I would rather sign our own Ells for 5/$75 (to age 34) than Justin Upton who will deliver in the .270/.350/450 range with 15-20HR/30 doubles for 5/$60+ (through age 30). We can't have both, as that would block JBJ and the others, and Ells has been a better producer with a better disposition. IMO, extend Ells if Borass allows it, let Kalish, Brentz, JBJ develop, and let short termers like Ross bridge the corner gaps. An OF of a healthy Ells, Kalish, Linares, Ross should provide good D, OBP and power.