Based on the strength of a .267/.326/.481 campaign with Boston, free agent Cody Ross is seeking a three-year deal worth at least $6 million and maybe as much as $8 million per season. Word is that the Orioles are one of the teams pursuing him.
They shouldn’t be.
In Nolan Reimold, the Orioles have a right-handed-hitting outfielder with a career line of .261/.338/.455 in 808 major league at-bats.
Ross, the older of the two by nearly three years, has a .262/.324/.460 line in 2,912 at-bats. And he’ll probably make at least five times as much as Reimold next year.
The only reason for the Orioles to consider Ross is if they don’t think Reimold can come back from last year’s neck surgery to fuse together two vertebrae. Reimold, though, has resumed working out and is expected to be ready to go in spring training. If Reimold is back at 100 percent, then Ross isn’t any kind of upgrade for Baltimore. He’d probably be a downgrade.
By signing Ross, the Orioles would simply be paying for certainty. And it’s not worth it, particularly not with a $20 million price tag. Ross isn’t any sort of star. He hammers left-handers, but he’ll probably revert to being below average against right-handers outside of Fenway Park next season (Ross hit .298/.356/.565 in Boston last season and .232/.294/.390 everywhere else). He’s a career .253/.312/.415 hitter against righties.
When it comes to left field, the Orioles either need to go big or stay home. It’s worth weighing the pros and cons of Josh Hamilton and maybe seeing if they have the right pieces to intrigue the Diamondbacks on a Justin Upton trade. But unless they can get a star, they should stick with Reimold and maybe re-sign Nate McLouth as a fallback. If that doesn’t work out, they can trade for another solution come June or July. But even in the worst case, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which they’re going to be really disappointed about missing out on Cody Ross.
If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.
While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.
The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.
A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.
A great read and a great history lesson.