I’ve enjoyed watching and writing about Gross to almost hyperbolic levels. He’s a fantastic athlete, one who actually played quarterback for the University of Auburn, and has more range than a soprano. His arm isn’t half bad either. Offensively, Gross will strikeout a bit while walking and hitting the occasional home run. He rarely goes outside of the strike zone to chase a bad pitch. He’s largely ineffective against southpaws, making him a platoon player and defensive replacement on any consciously managed team.
There seems to be two chief concerns about Gross on the A’s:
1) The Athletics already have three defensive wizards in their outfield
2) The Athletics also have Travis Buck
Let’s address the second point first. Buck had a fine entrance to the Majors back in 2007 producing 2.3 WAR. Since then injuries have absolutely sunk any hopes of dependability the A’s can put on the 26-year-old. In fact, he has fewer plate appearances since 2007 for the A’s as Gross did last year. The hope for Buck is basically to be Gross: an average hitting corner outfielder with above average defensive abilities. Since the A’s appear able to make a run at the division this year, Gross seems to provide more reliability, even if Buck’s upside is higher.
The first point is one people constantly harp on with the Mariners, too. Runs are runs. If there’s any ballpark in America that can handle three range-blessed outfielders at once, it’s the canyon Oakland plays inside of. If two of the fielders overlap constantly, have one take a few steps away. Gross doesn’t have to live up to his CHONE projections to be worth the contract.
Matt Klaasen ran through the math in more vivid color than I will here, but there’s little room for failure when evaluating this deal in WAR to dollar terms.