Let’s Consider Ourselves Lucky on Cody Ross

NOTE: I worked on this post yesterday, crunched the numbers, reached a conclusion, and debated it with Mike. It was all set to rock the interweb later today, Saturday. Then I read that the Diamondbacks just signed Cody Ross to three-year contract for $26 million, including a $1 million buyout of a fourth-year club option. My thought: Good, didn’t want him anyway. Here’s why . . .

Jimmy:

We keep reading variations of this: the Mets might be in a position to sign an outfielder to a multi-year contract. Nothing crazy, but they might — maybe, possibly — be willing to “splurge” on a right-handed hitting outfielder.

Michael Baron at Metsblog has consistently mentioned Cody Ross as “the most logical fit.” On Friday, he repeated that idea:

Cody Ross, on the other hand, is a more polished version of Hairston. He hits right-handed pitching more consistently, therefore making him a better candidate to start on a regular basis. He had reportedly been seeking a three-year deal but he remains unsigned. He is a similar player to Ryan Ludwick, who just signed a two-year deal with the Reds.

So let’s take a look at Cody. He’s a career .262/.324/.460 player. But in 2010 and 2011, Cody’s SLG numbers sagged badly to .413 and .405 — not good. Yet in 2008, 2009, and 2012 he’s averaged a SLG of about .475 — very good.

When complementary players win championships, their contributions tend to become overvalued.

He had a terrific postseason in 2010 for the Giants, smacking 5 HRs in 15 games, cementing his reputation as a gamer. His defense is solid. And he crushes LHP. Across the last 3 seasons, that’s translated to a .530 SLG and an .882 OPS against LHP — which is an area of desperate need for the Mets as long as we continue to feature Duda, Davis, and Murphy in the same lineup.

Financially, Ross has been seeking a 3-year, $25 million contract. Last year, when he was also a free agent, Ross ended up settling for a 1-year, $3 million deal. What changed? In 2012, Cody hit .267/.326/.481 for the Red Sox, belting 22 HRs.

I’ll be honest: I’ve never once thought, “Gosh, I wish we had Cody Ross!” In fact, I never thought he was particularly good. But I’m open to changing my mind, and recognize the realities of the Mets situation.

The Mets sorely need a professional bat in the outfield. Ross, for all his flaws,  could be that player. I’d like him a lot more at two years than for three, since 2015 is my target year for a high-quality, championship-contending team.

This may come down to something along the lines of Scott Hairston at 2/$10 or Ross at 3/$25. Length of contract, to me, is a big, big deal. The big assumption here — purported by Baron and, in practice, various managers in MLB baseball — is that Ross is more of an everyday player than Hairston. That’s been true across their careers, playing time-wise. However, look at this:

  • Hairston, 2010-12 vs RHP in 431 ABs: 218/.289/.420/.709.
  • Ross, 2010-12 vs RHP in 1,051 ABs: 254/.315/.402/.717.

Edge to Ross. But it’s not enormous. And neither line is impressive. We know that Hairston’s power plays anywhere, while I have serious doubts about Ross in our ballpark. There’s the rub.

Last year, his “comeback season,” Ross benefited wildly from playing in Beantown, where he slugged an insane and unsustainable .565. But look, dear reader, at his “Away” SLG number for 2012: a scrawny .390, which is consistent with his “Away” SLG for the past three seasons, .389. In Boston last season, Ross hit for power like Mike Piazza; away, he was scary close to Darryl Hamilton (.385 SLG, career). And that’s the wrong Hamilton.

In fact, Ross’ field-neutral “Away” slash line for the past three seasons is .233/.297/.389 for an OPS of .686. I believe that’s the guy we’d get in our tough hitter’s park.

I don’t want to be married to that for 3 seasons.

I pass. Cody Ross will not hit for power at Citifield.

However, if we sign Hairston — which can get done at two years — the Mets would be returning the same outfield as last season, sans Torres and Bay. Nice subtraction, but no addition. Can Alderson realistically do that? Return next year with the same everyday lineup, flipping only Thole for Buck?

Sandy Alderson has shown he can subtract. But can he add?

Mike:

Only Sandy knows for sure. But he has made some strange jokes about his outfield if he isn’t going to do anything about it. Ross, eh. But I rather pay my money to see Ross bat than Cowgill. And no trade is required here. I’m sick of worrying about every last one of Fred’s pennies. Rauch, Ramirez, and Cedeno are gone. Carrsaco, off the books. Wright took a 2013 pay cut, so did Bay. Dickey and Thole for Buck is a financial wash. Payroll should not have to go down, again. So for me, it’s all about term. Two years, get it done already. Unless the idea is to run a test pattern on SNY until Wheeler and d’Arnaud show up.

Or we could really go crazy and sign Ross and Hairston. If we did that and re-signed Young, our payroll might make it back up to last year’s. And none of these moves will hinder the future in the least (if Ross is two years or less).

I’m not clamoring for Cody, at all. If a trade is going to happen, once again I can wait. But if the question is Ross or our current crop of misfits in the outfield, I’m all for signing Ross.

Jimmy:

He won’t hit here, pass. The Red Sox season was a park-driven mirage. I’d rather that money goes to starting pitching, the pen, and a cheaper outfield “solution.” Yes, that’s in quotes, because 2013 is not going to see a real answer to our outfield problems. We traded Dickey for minor leaguers. It’s going to be that kind of season and I guess I’m saying, I accept that over the alternative of locking a guy for three years who just isn’t very good. Sign Scott for half the price. Or make a trade. But don’t settle for Ross.

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2 comments

  1. Michael Geus says:

    This sure seems like good news for Scott Hairston.

  2. This is just a bunch of propaganda coming from the suits! I am guessing we are going to go with the tried and true method of “Dumpster Diving” during Spring Training and plucking of the scrap heap.

    That is the Mets way!

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