Cody Ross! ... ?

By Jason Wojciechowski on April 7, 2015 at 7:44 PM

So Cody Ross is about to join the A's, which is not something I expected even though there had been reporting of Oakland's interest in him. Certainly there's an element of "why not" here -- with Coco Crisp out, the A's don't have to get rid of one of the players they were counting on for the sake of testing out whether Ross has anything left in the tank. Sure, it costs Billy Burns or Tyler Ladendorf a roster spot, but these are fringe players as it is, notwithstanding Slusser's kind words in the linked story to the effect that the A's like to have their prospects play every day. Burns and Ladendorf, especially the latter, aren't prospects. It's rude and cold-blooded, but it's facts.

The other question is the 40-man spot, but that's easy enough to deal with: Jarrod Parker is still on the 15-day disabled list, but he's not going to come back before the early June date that a 60-day move would give him, so the A's don't need to lose anyone to add Ross.

So what is this Cody Ross character? He's 34, for starters, which is younger than I'd figured and, I expect, younger than you'd figured, too. The A's will be his eighth major-league team and, depending on how well he does and how long he lasts, just his second substantial stretch in the American League, after 130 games with Boston in 2012 (and six games with Detroit in 2003). Over the last four years, he's hit .259/.324/.421 in San Francisco, Boston, and Arizona, which adds up to a 105 OPS+ that isn't very impressive for a corner outfielder who isn't bringing Gentryian defense along for the ride.

PECOTA has him down for a .257/.315/.415 line this year, but that's projected into Arizona, so take some air out for Oakland. Park-adjusted, PECOTA's looking at a .262 TAv. ZiPS and Steamer are actually even less optimistic, calling for a 94 and 91 wRC+, respectively. Ross has Rickey Syndrome, though, throwing left and batting right, so how about splits?

Year OBP v. L SLG v. L
2014 .329 .310
2013 .430 .582
2012 .373 .636
2011 .336 .362

Well! Maybe that absurd 2012-13 line against lefties holds a clue to the A's interest. The lineup against lefties once Reddick came back was going to have a variety of suboptimal possibilities all revolving around the fact that either Billy Burns or Sam Fuld was going to have to play outfield. Burns is a switch-hitter, but you'd kind of rather he not be wielding lumber at all, and Fuld would lose the platoon advantage. With Ross in the fold, Bob Melvin doesn't have to make that choice.

The more interesting question will be against righties, where Reddick's return will let Craig Gentry return to his natural position against starboarders: the bench. That will leave Ben Zobrist either in left field with Eric Sogard at second or Zobrist at second and Ross in left. You know how sometimes you have a problem figuring out which of two good options to pick and it's all "that's a good problem to have!" Well, Ross or Sogard against righties isn't that. I don't know how to compare Zobrist and Sogard defensively at second, but I'm taking Zobrist over Ross all day in left, which might decide things.

So I'm feeling okay about this for the league minimum. Down the road Coco Crisp will come back and the A's will have to decide between, probably, Ross and Fuld, but a lot has been known to happen in eight weeks of baseball, especially on the injury front, so it's entirely easy to imagine scenarios in which Ross is in Oakland all year and winds up hitting the walk-off homer in Game Seven of the World Series. Congrats on your new ring, Cody Ross!