Originally written on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 12/17/12
The Phillies have long held an interest in Cody Ross and have amped up their efforts to sign him in the wake of Josh Hamilton‘s deal with the Angels. We discussed Ross’s numbers last week and found that he is really little more than a marginal upgrade over the inexpensive John Mayberry and Nate Schierholtz platoon the Phillies could have used. Ross has some value but the advantages of using him over that platoon — saving a roster spot and adding perhaps a smidgen more consistency at the position — were not worth the additional $7-$10 million per year the Phillies would pay. Ross could help the Phillies on a reasonable contract but he simply is not worth a three-year deal in the $24-$36 million range he is seeking. If the Phillies are not going to make a major move, like signing Nick Swisher or trading for Mark Trumbo, they are better off sticking with some combo of Mayberry, Darin Ruf and Laynce Nix than spending what they figure to spend on Ross. If they are dead-set on Ross, or the idea of Ross and what he brings to the table, there are cheaper alternatives: Scott Hairston, who is currently a free agent, and the aforementioned Nix, who is already on the Phillies 2013 roster at less than $2 million. Both Hairston and Nix have similar skill-sets to Ross and have been similarly valuable over the last three seasons. Both would also enable the Phillies to utilize what they like about Ross without sacrificing financial flexibility now and into the future. Let’s look at some numbers since they are more illustrative of the point than my verbage. From 2010-12, here are the overall numbers of Ross, Hairston and Nix: Ross: .260/.324/.434, 8.2% BB, 22.2% K, .174 ISO, .330 wOBA, 104 wRC+ Nix: .260/.316/.444, 7.6% BB, 24.7% K, .184 ISO, .329 wOBA, 104 wRC+ Hairston: .239/.298/.440, 6.9% BB, 21.2% K, .201 ISO, .320 wOBA, 103 wRC+ Again we see some very similar statistics. The wRC+ metric is most telling as it normalizes for league and park. By wRC+, all three players have been virtually identical offensive performers over the last three seasons. Ross walks a bit more than both but has the lowest power marks. He has also logged about twice as many PAs and has faced same-handed pitching more often. Both Nix and Hairston have primarily faced opposite-handed pitchers. This isn’t an indictment against them in any way. If anything, their managers should get points for using them more correctly by masking their faults and maximizing their strengths. The larger sample of information Ross has accrued lends itself to increased confidence in his true talent level. But, again, that increased confidence isn’t worth the premium the Phillies would pay over using Nix and Mayberry in a platoon or signing Hairston. All three players have the same basic attributes: they hit for power, are by no means OBP wunderkinds, and struggle against same-handed pitching. In looking at the above numbers it’s hard to justify paying Ross the $8-$10 million per year he figures to get when Hairston is going to end up in the 2/$10 or 3/$12 vicinity. Their numbers are very similar but the major difference here is perception. Simply put, teams view Hairston concretely as a platoon player, while some mistakenly still see Ross as a potential everyday starter. While he isn’t atrocious against right-handed pitchers, his 94 wRC+ against them over the last three years is well below average. And that isn’t optimal when righties throw approximately 70% of the pitches in a season. If you’re interested in more recent numbers, below is the same breakdown of the above trio over the last two years. I’m more fond of three-year samples because it takes a while to truly measure a player’s talent level, but consider these numbers for the sake of discussion: Ross: .254/.326/.446, 9.2% BB, 22.8% K, .192 ISO, .334 wOBA, 109 wRC+ Nix: .249/.303/.441, 7.3% BB, 25.9% K, .192 ISO, .322 wOBA, 101 wRC+ Hairston: .255/.300/.495, 5.5% BB, 21.5% K, .240 ISO, .340 wOBA, 116 wRC+ Hairston was better on offense even after adjusting for league and park. Ross seemingly offers the best combination of skills of the group but that was never really up for debate. Ross is a better player than both Nix and Hairston. He just isn’t that much better to merit a far more substantial commitment. With Nix on the roster and Hairston both available and affordable, signing Ross is spending money because it’s there instead of truly upgrading the team in a meaningful way. With Ross as an everyday starter, the Phillies are probably an 86-87 win team that lacks flexibility to make a deadline deal. Apologies if this feels like an excessive hammering home of the point, but my posts today and last week were designed to show that there are more cost-effective options available to signing Ross. He is a decent player but he will cost more than he is worth. Whether it’s a combo of Nix, Mayberry and Ruf, or the use of Hairston in a platoon, the Phillies can get basically get 85% of Ross for 50% or less of the price. The Phillies can replicate what Ross embodies without making the lucrative investment into the man, himself, and that’s crucial for a team with this many question marks.
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