Cody has mashed this year, but the Sox should let him go.
But that doesn't mean he should be back in a Sox uniform in 2013.
For readers who might be up in arms at my suggesting the Sox let one of their few productive and likable players walk in free agency, allow me to qualify. For the right price (both in terms of money and years), Ross would be a great signing.
The problem is, he won't come at the right price for his value. And after the franchise-changing, deck-clearing mega-trade between the Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston's front office can't repeat the mistakes of their recent past. They need to avoid overpays and find good future value in free agent acquisition.
They did just that last year in signing Ross. Now they should do it again by letting him go.
Let's take a look at a few reasons why Ross shouldn't be a Red Sox next year.
Teams with deep pockets will be in on Ross.
The biggest reason not to resign Cody Ross is his impending price tag.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has already reported that two of the biggest-budget teams in Major League Baseball are eyeing Ross as he approaches free agency. Cafardo writes:
He has three major-market teams—the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox—very interested in him. Ross has made it clear he’d negotiate with the Red Sox right now and would stay in Boston if he had his druthers. The Sox are starting preliminary talks, but if something isn’t worked out before free agency begins, the Yankees and Phillies—at least—will be eager to talk to him. Ross played for Yankees manager Joe Girardi in Florida.
The Yankees and Phillies would both be able to offer Ross a three-year deal with an average annual value between $8-10 million. That should be too rich for the Sox.
But why? Where should we place Ross's value? Let's take a look at his production and see what kind of contract he merits.
Ross's numbers are boosted dramatically by Fenway.
Some think Cody Ross should get a deal similar to Minnesota Twins OF Josh Willingham’s: three years, $21 million.
After all, Ross has an .814 OPS this year while Willingham had an .810 OPS in 2011. Ross also has positional flexibility in the outfield, while Willingham is basically a LF/DH. Plus, Ross is two years younger.
The Willingham deal paid off for Minnesota: he's hit 35 home runs this year. So a look at their aggregate stats justifies giving Ross a Willingham-level contract.
But the split stats tell a different story.
Willingham had no noticeable split favoring lefties or righties. In 2011, he posted an .823 OPS in 329 ABs against RHP, and a .783 OPS against LHP. Willingham also had even home and away splits, with an .874 OPS in the A's cavernous stadium, and a .750 OPS on the road.
By contrast, Ross looks like a situational player on both counts.
Ross has crushed lefties this year. He has a 1.017 OPS in 126 at-bats against southpaws. But against righties, he's managed just a .737 OPS in 335 ABs.
So Ross needs a platoon partner. That should be factored into any contract offer to Ross, since more resources will need to be dedicated to that platoon.
Ross’s home-away splits are also uneven: He has a .921 OPS at home, and a .691 OPS on the road.
So, Ross is a platoon player and a park specialist. Unlike Willingham, who was capable of consistent production, Ross is a situational player. Therefore, Ross doesn't deserve the same contract as Willingham.
Ross's bat does little to address the Sox' issues on the mound.
Giving Ross a multi-year contract does little to address the Boston's biggest weakness: pitching.
The Sox are currently have scored the seventh-most runs in Major League Baseball, and the fourth-most in the AL. They're a playoff-caliber offense, and they'll continue to rake next year with a healthy lineup.
What isn't playoff-caliber about the Sox is their pitching. They're ranked 26th in runs allowed, 12th in the AL. Their team ERA is an awful 4.61, good for 25th in the league.
They can hope for a rebound from SP Jon Lester and a full healthy season from Clay Buchholz, but even still, the Sox need to replenish their pitching staff. They'll also need a relief ace to pair with closer Andrew Bailey, since Daniel Bard looks cooked.
Though Boston has plenty of payroll flexibility, they can't mess up this rebuilding opportunity by overpaying for situational players like Ross. They need to make smart decisions to fix their deep organizational issues.
Giving Cody Ross a multi-year deal won't do much to rectify those issues.
Ross is affable and productive. He'd be a fan favorite if there were still any fans following the Sox. But Boston needs to dedicate those resources elsewhere.