Cody Ross is still in free agent limbo, awaiting a team to sign him to the three-year deal he’s been seeking.
The Red Sox say they’re still in it, but with Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino added to the outfield mix and Gomes being righthanded, it seems tough to figure where Ross fits. Ross, who had a strong season on a one-year, $3 million deal, told the Red Sox from the outset his comparisons were Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer.
Willingham received a three-year, $21 million deal from the Twins after they let Cuddyer sign a three-year, $31.5 million deal with the Rockies last winter. The Red Sox gave Victorino a three-year, $39 million deal, but Ross wasn’t signed for what seemed to be a lesser salary demand, and he excelled at Fenway.
Willingham signed with Minnesota after hitting .246 with 29 homers, 98 RBIs, and an .810 OPS for the A’s in 2011. Cuddyer hit .284 with 20 homers, 70 RBIs, and an .805 OPS with the Twins in 2011 before signing with Colorado. Ross hit .267 with 22, homers, 81 RBIs, and an .807 OPS with the Red Sox in 2012.
Ross has drawn considerable interest from the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Yankees, and Orioles, but nothing is close, according to a major league source.
One American League GM said the Red Sox, “may be trying to deal Jacoby Ellsbury and then sign Ross after they move Victorino to center.” That makes some sense, but so far that hasn’t transpired.
Rumors swirled on Tuesday that the Dodgers were trying to move Andre Ethier to sign Nick Swisher. With that came thoughts that the Dodgers and Red Sox might engage in an Ellsbury-Ethier swap, which would give the Dodgers their leadoff hitter.
But when asked whether such a swap was possible, a Dodgers official promptly replied, “No.”
Ellsbury makes some sense for the Dodgers, who have second baseman Mark Ellis, with a .331 on base percentage last season, leading off. The Dodgers could move Matt Kemp to left to preserve his legs and have Ellsbury in center.
The Dodgers would also be equipped to negotiate a new deal with Ellsbury with Scott Boras. The Dodgers don’t seem to be biting.
. . .
Sometimes minor signings go under the radar. Maybe Koji Uehara will be that guy. Uehara was signed at the Winter Meetings, but the Red Sox made it official on Tuesday after he passed his physical.
Uehara said through interpreter Mikio Yoshimura that the biggest reason he signed was “The Boston Red Sox expressed the strongest desire to acquire me.”
Uehara, who will wear Josh Beckett’s old No. 19, missed two months with a lat strain for the Rangers in 2012, but he was very effective. In 37 relief appearances, he had a career-low 1.75 ERA. He had the fourth-lowest WHIP in major league history at 0.64.
The downside is that he’s 37. The Sox probably need to limit his back-to-back appearances and be careful how often he’s up in the bullpen. He’s definitely a late-inning guy — especially with his $4.25 million salary — who could close some games. Uehara said he did not know what his role would be.
Uehara’s 14.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season was the third best in modern major league history, trailing two seasons by Dennis Eckersley.
Righthanders hit only .125 (7 for 56) against Uehara. He spent 10 seasons in Japan, and was signed by the Orioles in 2009 to be a starter. He went to the bullpen in 2010 and since then he’s led the majors with a 10.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio (183 K’s/17 walks) and has averaged 11.36 strikeouts per nine innings (145.0 IP), the third-highest mark among American Leaguers with at least 125 innings over that time.
Over the last three years, he has held righthanders to a .177 average (47 for 265), third in the AL during that time (minimum of 200 batters faced). He posted a 0.72 WHIP or lower in consecutive seasons (0.72 in 2011, 0.64 in 2012), becoming just the second player to accomplish the feat, along with Eckersley in ’89 and ’90. With the Yomiuri Giants in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Central League, Uehara compiled a 112-62 record with 33 saves, a 3.01 ERA (518 ER/1,549.0 IP), and 1,376 strikeouts. He led the NPB in wins in 1999 and 2002, ERA in 1999 and 2004, and strikeouts in 1999 and 2003.