Sitting a $9.5 million player on the bench in a part-time/platoon role is not what you’d call an ideal situation for an MLB team, though the Arizona Diamondbacks may have to do just that with Cody Ross in 2014.
In fact, with at least $20 million remaining over the next two years (including a $1 million buyout in 2016), the D’Backs are set to have a fairly expensive part-time player for at 2015 as well. Not that they totally mind, of course. With the acquisition of Mark Trumbo to be their left fielder and middle-of-the-order bat, the team essentially created this situation for themselves, leaving Ross with little room to fit into the outfield picture in 2014.
But why can’t they just play him full-time, if only to build his trade value up?
It’s true that the 33-year-old’s pop and 102 wRC+ in an injury-shortened 2013 topped those of both Gerardo Parra (96) and A.J. Pollock (98). However, the duo are not exactly total losses with the bat themselves, and they happen to be significantly better defenders at 26.0 and 18.5 fielding runs above average respectively.
Considering that they’re younger and in good health, there’d have to be a pretty good reason for the team to sit their no. 2 and 3 players in fWAR — at 4.6 and 3.6 respectively — from last season.
That’s not to say that Ross will be languishing on the bench most of the time, however. Assuming that he’ll be fully recovered from the troubled hip that ailed him, the team will more than likely put him in a platoon at the expense of Parra, who still hasn’t shown that he can hit southpaws (.501 OPS over 200 PA) for all of his defensive prowess. You don’t need to look further than Ross’ 1.012 OPS vs. LHP (121 PA) and .603 OPS vs. RHP (230 PA) to find a fit there.
In fact, considering his health problems and age, this kind of limited role designed to maximize his productivity might actually be the best option for the veteran.
The problem, of course, comes back to the money, and the fact that Ross will be making what should be a starter’s money might create a bit of an untenable situation. Should Arizona look to ship Parra off? Well, he’s the better, younger player even with the platoon deficiencies, so it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.
They could try to trade Ross, but they’re not going to get much back at this point unless they give him more playing time to succeed … which isn’t necessarily conducive to the team’s immediate success.
What about platooning Pollock and Parra in center? The former’s splits (.811 OPS vs. LHP, .678 vs. RHP) makes that work, though considering the defensive downgrade that the Diamondbacks will be taking on with the inclusion of Trumbo in the outfield, would it really be beneficial to knowingly take another notch off the groups defensive capabilities?
In short, there’s no easy answer here, and the money only makes it much more of a conundrum. Whether they like it or not, the Diamondbacks are likely going to be stuck with Ross at least for most 2014; and while they can definitely make it work, manager Kirk Gibson will have his work cut out for him to keep the lineup fluid so that the team can find the right balance while putting that $9.5 million salary to good use.
If that goes according to plan? Well, let’s just say that there’ll probably be a few Cody Ross rumors hanging around.