The Phillies acquired Ben Revere to play centerfield for the foreseeable future but question marks remain in the corner outfield spots. Odds are that Domonic Brown starts in one of the positions on an everyday basis. The other post is likely up for grabs. John Mayberry and Darin Ruf represent internal options while Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher and Cody Ross are the oft-discussed available free agents. With plenty of money leftover after the Revere deal the Phils have an opportunity to allocate resources wisely and upgrade the rotation and bullpen in addition to the other corner outfield spot.
However, in reading between the lines, it sure seems that the Phillies are hard after Cody Ross. The former Marlin, Giant and Red Sock, who has surely struck fear into many a Phillies fan over the years, is said to be seeking a three-year deal in the $30 million range. That isn’t Hamilton money but it’s a pretty nice annual stipend for someone who doesn’t get on base all that much, doesn’t hit righties (who throw 70% of the pitches in a season) particularly well, and literally defines the term “mediocre fielder” with a career +0.2 UZR.
The idea that the team covets him, as has been reported, is alarming when better options exist on the market and a borderline equivalent internal option existed when the offseason began. To illustrate the point, let’s play everyone’s favorite game: Guess…. That…. Player!
Here are the overall stats of two players from 2010-12:
Player A: .260/.324/.434, 8.2% BB, 22.2% K, .330 wOBA, 104 wRC+, -0.3 Fld
Player B: .257/.317/.446, 7.7% BB, 21.6% K, .331 wOBA, 107 wRC+, -0.7 Fld
Almost identical, right? But wait, this gets even better…
Here are the 2010-12 splits against lefties for the very same players:
Player A: .276/.352/.530, .254 ISO, .374 wOBA, 135 wRC+
Player B: .290/.337/.544, .254 ISO, .374 wOBA, 136 wRC+
You won’t find two players with lines that more closely resemble each other than with this pair.
Now, let’s introduce a third player into the equation and compare him to Player A against right-handed pitching over the last three seasons:
Player A: .254/.315/.402, .147 ISO, .314 wOBA, 94 wRC+
Player C: .270/.334/.440, .170 ISO, .334 wOBA, 112 wRC+
Player C clearly has the better overall numbers against righties over the most recent meaningful sample of information.
Player A is Cody Ross. Player B is John Mayberry. Player C is Nate Schierholtz.
Replacing code-names with actual names, Ross and Mayberry have been near equivalent offensive players over the last three seasons, with similar fielding skills, similar excellence against opposite-handed pitching, and similar struggles against righties. Schierholtz has been far better against same-handed pitchers and is a very good fielder.
The Phillies have significant interest in Ross at something like $8-9 million per year when the Mayberry/Schierholtz platoon could have provided equal production for 1/4 of the price.
This isn’t to say that opting for Ross over that tandem is an awful decision. There is inherent value in saving a roster spot and Ross likely offers more consistency in the power department. Playing part-time roles could certainly impact Mayberry and Schierholtz negatively and it’s unclear if they would continue to produce at their respective career rates in a timeshare.
However, I don’t believe those advantages of Ross over SchierBerry are worth an additional $6-7 million premium.
This platoon is no longer an option since Schierholtz was non-tendered but it doesn’t render the comparison moot. All things considered, Ross is likely a slight upgrade over the platoons the Phillies could have used, but he is really just a much more expensive and a slightly better and more consistent version of Mayberry.
If the Phillies are looking to improve the outfield and have money to spend, they should actually improve the outfield in a big way and spend money accordingly. Paying Ross $8-9 million per year to potentially do a bit more than what could have been done for $2.25 million is suboptimal. Sure, he replaces two players who may have fallen out of favor with the fanbase and organization, but he doesn’t move the needle all the much. The Phillies can do better than a Mayberry/Schierholtz platoon, and right now that’s all Ross really represents.