Re: Cody Ross?
posted at 11/3/2012 1:41 PM EDT
Red Sox Blog Could Cody Ross have been worth a qualifying offer?
0 November 3, 2012 9:06 am By
David Ortiz was the only Red Sox player tendered a qualifying offer by 5 p.m. on Friday, meaning he was the only prospective free agent who would have fetched draft-pick compensation should he have signed elsewhere.
(He didn't. He signed a two-year deal on Friday night.)
To receive compensation for a free agent who signs elsewhere, a team has to offer the player a contract for the for the following season worth the average of the top 125 contracts in the game -- $13.3 million, in this case. The team signing any player tendered a qualifying offer must forfeit its first-round draft pick -- unless that team, like the Red Sox, has a top-10 pick -- and the team losing that player receives a supplemental draft pick after the first round.
Nine free agents -- Ortiz, Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Hiroki Kuroda, Adam LaRoche, Kyle Lohse, Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher and B.J. Upton -- received qualifying offers. Among the notables who did not receive qualifying offers were Torii Hunter, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Victorino.
And Cody Ross.
No one ever really expected Ross would receive a qualifying offer from the Red Sox. The outfielder was a terrific addition to the Red Sox last season, hitting 22 home runs and 34 doubles after signing for just $3 million in the late stages of free agency. Green Monster fit him as perfectly as any ballpark has fit any hitter.
But Ross generally was a below-average defensive outfielder, especially in left field, and his slugging percentage was more than 200 points lower against righties than against lefties. He looked at times much more like a complementary player -- a No. 6 or No. 7 hitter -- than a foundation player.
Still, Ross figures to get paid this offseason -- perhaps along the lines of Michael Cuddyer, who signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Colorado Rockies last winter.
And the Red Sox still need hitters. Thanks to the trade of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the cupboard is pretty bare beyond Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks.
The Red Sox also have money to spend -- though they're simultaneously trying to avoid the type of long-term commitments that led to the Gonzalez trade. Many of the free agents on the open market will command just those types of long-term deals. Bourn, Hamilton, LaRoche, Swisher and Upton all figure to command contracts at least three years in length. Some might be twice that.
For a team with money to spend in free agency but looking to avoid a long-term commitment, the only way to go might be to overpay for a short-term deal. Such a deal wouldn't be extraordinarily efficient, but it would ensure the financial flexibility about which Ben Cherington has talked so much this offseason.
Would $13.3 million for one season of Ross be an overpay? Undoubtedly. In a perfect world, Ross would sign a contract worth $13.3 million over two seasons -- or maybe $16-17 million, but not much more than that.
Here's one rough attempt at quantifying his value: The average free agent last season cost $3.92 million per WAR, according to Fangraphs statistics. Ross' performance last season, one he reasonably could be expected to repeat with another year at Fenway Park, was worth 2.4 WAR. That works out to a value of $9.4 million.
And once a player gets to free agency, there's no telling where bidding could go. Ross might wind up fielding Cuddyer-esque offers of $30 million over three years. For the Red Sox, $13.3 million for one season sounds a lot more palatable than $30 million over three -- and definitely a lot more palatable than $75 million over five years, which might be the price for Bourn or Upton.
Heck, the Los Angeles Dodgers just signed decent but hardly dominant reliever Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million contract -- a player who should be worth less than Ross is worth.
If the Red Sox believe Ross is worth significantly less than $9-10 million annually, they probably did the right thing by declining to tender him a qualifying offer at $13.3 million. If the Red Sox believe a relatively deep class of free-agent outfielders makes Ross replaceable, that's not something anyone really can judge until it all shakes out.
But if the Red Sox believe Ross is worth around $10 million, it might have been worth tendering him a qualifying offer -- overpaying in the short term to avoid overextending in the long term. That's what a team with $90 million in payroll flexibility can afford to do.