Ross Signing Causes Another Outfield Logjam

The Diamondbacks signed Jason Kubel last offseason and created an outfield logjam with Chris Young, Justin Upton and Gerardo Parra.

While the consensus had the team attempting to trade Parra following Kubel’s signing, the Diamondbacks stood pat and attempted to use everyone effectively. Top prospect Adam Eaton then knocked down the door to the majors at the end of the season, put up solid numbers across 103 major league plate appearances, and appeared to be the odds-on favorite for the starting centerfield gig.

Chris Young was dealt to the Athletics to make room for Eaton but the Diamondbacks were right back at square one. They had four starting outfielders for three spots and clear needs elsewhere that could get fixed through a trade. Regardless, it seemed like they stopped looking at free agent outfielders and were focused on subtracting from the group, whether it was a mega-deal involving Upton or a smaller deal for one of Kubel or Parra.

Kevin Towers and Co., defied these expectations over the weekend by signing Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million contract. The move instantly put Kubel and Parra back on the trading block as there is simply no way the Diamondbacks enter the season with even more of a starting outfield surplus than last year. However, signing Ross was a questionable decision because he and Kubel have been similarly valuable players over the last couple of seasons. They essentially already had another form of Ross on the roster and it’s unclear if the team will be able to extract full value in a subsequent Kubel trade now that it very clearly has to move one of its outfielders.

Ross and Kubel aren’t identical players but their numbers over the last two seasons are very similar. Ross offers better fielding and baserunning while Kubel has him beat in the on-base and slugging departments. Kubel is also one year Ross’s junior. Here are some of their pertinent numbers over the last two seasons:

Ross: 989 PA, 9.2% BB, 22.8% K, .254/.326/.446, .334 wOBA, 109 wRC+
Kubel: 972 PA, 9.2% BB, 24.4% K, .261/.329/.476, .345 wOBA, 113 wRC+

When normalized for league and park there is really no discernible difference between the two at the plate and the defensive gap among them — Ross at -3, Kubel at -7 — isn’t that substantial. Why then would the Diamondbacks make this move if Ross isn’t a clear upgrade and still required a fairly lucrative three-year commitment?

The likeliest answer is the Diamondbacks wanted to continue using Parra as the roving fourth outfielder but also wanted to use their outfield depth to help solve another problem area. Parra would platoon on occasion and help spell the other starting outfielders while reaching a certain, likely pre-established, plate appearances threshold.

Kubel is guaranteed one more year on his deal and an acquiring team may find unloading a prospect for a one-year commitment more palatable than signing Ross. In this scenario, the Diamondbacks replace Kubel with a slightly better — if not more expensive — version of himself, while using the actual Kubel to acquire a needed prospect or player.

Perhaps the Diamondbacks intended on spending Ross’s money to fix these areas of need directly, but found no one to their liking or had their efforts rebuked. Perhaps, through discussions with various other teams over the course of the offseason, they feel confident that Kubel is a valuable trade target for teams that would miss out on Ross.

Perhaps they wanted to keep some form of Kubel around on a three-year extension while using another form of him to bolster the infield or pitching staff. This was a seemingly unnecessary move on the surface but one that could pay dividends if Ross plays well and Kubel brings back solid value in a trade.

Teams don’t generally continue to seek players in areas where a logjam or surplus already exists, because of the uncertainty in what they could get by moving the player made expendable by such a move. The Diamondbacks potentially have a very good outfield and were willing to take that risk to make a slight upgrade over a player they already had, while using the latter player to help them through a trade.

The first part of this process is now complete, but what they get for Kubel is a partial factor in determining the initial value of this signing.



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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


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Damaso's Burnt Shirt
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Damaso's Burnt Shirt
3 years 8 months ago

All YOUR OUTFIELD ARE BELONG TO US
-Kevin Towers

BillyBeane2012
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BillyBeane2012
3 years 8 months ago

I beg to differ.

What happen?
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What happen?
3 years 8 months ago

He landed the guy he was Zero Wing in on.

Forrest Gumption
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Forrest Gumption
3 years 8 months ago

The A’s just literally gave the Mets their starting RF in Collin Cowgill for pretty much free and have Cespedes, Reddick, Young, Crisp & Seth Smith, not to mention the breaking-out Brandon Moss, who’s a good RF too.

I’d say the Dbax are just sweating the A’s in everything they do in copying them and also in trying to get as many players of theirs as possible, but they’re in the NL so its not as bad when Theo ripped off Moneyball but then added money and won 2 titles. Play on KT, play on.

I guess the question to ask here is, who is the king of the stacked OF? Its currently:
Upton, Kubel, Ross, Kubel & Eaton OR
Cespedes, Reddick, Young, Crisp & Smith

Its looking like Oakland by quite a bit to me…

Forrest Gumption
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Forrest Gumption
3 years 8 months ago

oops i meant

I guess the question to ask here is, who is the king of the stacked OF? Its currently:
Upton, Kubel, Ross, Parra & Eaton OR
Cespedes, Reddick, Young, Crisp & Smith

Valuearb
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Valuearb
3 years 8 months ago

Kubel isn’t an outfielder.

Forrest Gumption
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Forrest Gumption
3 years 8 months ago

@Valuearb Just because you write a sentence, doesn’t mean its true. His value might not lie in defense but last year he played 1076 innings in the OF of a MLB team, ergo, he is an outfielder.

ValueArb
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ValueArb
3 years 8 months ago

Standing in left field does not make him an outfielder. He is a terrible defender, one of the worst in baseball. The fact that Kevin Towers broke up one of the best outfields in baseball to give a DH $15M to turn balls that were easy outs for Parra into hits, is just example number one thousand that KT doesn’t understand roster construction, doesn’t understand value, and is a terrible GM.

Oakland’s outfield is better than Arizonas due to the ineptitude of KT. As soon as Parra or Upton are shipped it will have gone from the one of the defensive outfields to one of the worst in only 2 years.

BX
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BX
3 years 8 months ago

remember the A’s also have to fill a DH spot with those OFs + Chris Carter (depending on how much of an actual platoon 1B is)k. The DBacks don’t (except in interleague). The A’s have less of an “overcrowded” OF than the Snakes, regardless of whether Kubel is/isn’t an OF. the a’s have moving parts everywhere; the dbacks less so.

also crisp/cespedes/young will combine for a LOT of DL time.

i’ll take the a’s OF since i think all of reddick, cespedes, and young are better than Kubel, Ross, and Parra, but Eaton’s a wildcard, if he starts, and Upton is a godly fixture in the OF.

handsome ransom
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handsome ransom
3 years 8 months ago

After losing c. Ransom the d-backs needed another former giants cody.

Pogue009
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Pogue009
3 years 8 months ago

or they may keep them 2012 Kubel 129wRC+ vRHP 90wRC+ vLHP Ross 164wRC+ vLHP 93wRC+ vRHP I know it is expensive but if they are going for a Word Series having guys who can hit professional pitching is very important.

Atari
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Atari
3 years 8 months ago

@Pogue009 looks like we are thinking alike.

Valuearb
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Valuearb
3 years 8 months ago

If Towers actively plans to spend $17m of a $70m payroll on a left field platoon when he has better, cheaper, Parra, he really is going for the Word Series title this year, and his entry will be “moronic”, “roster”, “construction”.

Forrest Gumption
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Forrest Gumption
3 years 8 months ago

Hate to nitpick, but every single player in the minors an majors can hit professional pitching.

Because they are professional hitters. They get paid to hit. Might vary in dollar amount, but “hitting a baseball” is definitely the profession of every position player in MiLB & MLB.

Bobby Ayala
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Member
3 years 8 months ago

How bad was your Christmas that you logged in to type that?

Atari
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Atari
3 years 8 months ago

Trust me your scenario is the most likely scenario, but what about using Kubel/Ross as a platoon? For 2013 Kubel @ 7.5M and Ross @ 6.0 M make a highly productive platoon LF bat at a reasonable price. I know it is a little unfair since the Dodgers are on an unbelievable spending spree, but Ethier is basically a platoon bat for the Dodgers and he will make 13.5M by himself in 2013.

Cody Ross vs L in 2012: .295/.373/.636/1.010; .341 ISO .419 wOBA 164 wRC+
Jason Kubel vs R in 2012: .264/.348/.540/.888; .276 ISO .372 wOBA 129 wRC+

Paul
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Paul
3 years 8 months ago

I actually think is the most likely scenario. Who do they have in AAA that would spell one of those guy in case of injury? Perhaps instead of playing through an injury for most of the season like Upton did, they can DL a guy and have a viable option there for a month.

This scenario as opposed to what they had last season, where two of their OFers were hurt for long stretches and either out or playing through it, and then having no choice but to overexpose Kubel by playing him every day.

Other considerations: as much as he looks like a solid player, Eaton zoomed through the system on basically a Joe McEwing pedigree and is after all a rookie; and Parra is by no means an elite guy.

Disagree that this is either a logjam or a trade waiting to happen. How many years in a row does Billy Beane need to make this work to prove it’s by design, and a good one?

Cliff
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Cliff
3 years 8 months ago

I would disagree slightly with some of your assessments. First, I don’t think you go out and sign a guy for nearly 30 million to be the weak side of a platoon. Why not just let Pollock be that guy? Secondly, you’re undervaluing Para. My guess is that if GMs across baseball could have Kubel or Para, contracts aside, they’d take Para in a landslide. The last 2 years, Kubel has a combined 2.9 WAR in 972 ABs. In 2011, Para had 2.8 WAR in under 500 ABs…over the last 2 years, Para has amassed 4.8 WAR in only 923 ABs. Not only is he a solid LH bat, he’s maybe the best LF in baseball from everything I’ve read and seen.

Cidron
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Cidron
3 years 8 months ago

Cliff. I … cant agree with him among the best LF, unless you are rating his glove, and not the whole.. Braun, Holliday, Hamilton, Gordon, Car-go, Craig, are all among those that I would rate ahead (if you look at the whole picture).. Yes, he is good, and yes, he is above Kubel.

Also, given what Boston went thru last year (in terms of OF use), depth is good. Yes, it was kinda odd that that many OF got injured (boston), but still, you do have to plan for some injuries on the team and make sure you have depth.

Atari
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Atari
3 years 8 months ago

I would disagree slightly with some of your assessments. First, I don’t think you go out and sign a guy for nearly 30 million to be the weak side of a platoon. Why not just let Pollock be that guy? Secondly, you’re undervaluing Para. My guess is that if GMs across baseball could have Kubel or Para, contracts aside, they’d take Para in a landslide. The last 2 years, Kubel has a combined 2.9 WAR in 972 ABs. In 2011, Para had 2.8 WAR in under 500 ABs…over the last 2 years, Para has amassed 4.8 WAR in only 923 ABs. Not only is he a solid LH bat, he’s maybe the best LF in baseball from everything I’ve read and seen.

I agree with what you are saying, but do the Diamondbacks? More specifically, does Kevin Towers? In the prior off-season Towers looked set with a Parra/Chris Young/Justin Upton outfield. He still went out and signed Jason Kubel, and for more money than he could have paid if he stuck with Parra. Why? To me, it is because Parra provides most of his amazing value on defense and in baserunning, while his bat is average. Now, I understand the Fangraphs crowd. Value is value. Whether it is on the field, on the basepaths, or at the plate.

Kevin Towers, somewhat ironically, has stated that he believes that Parra deserves every day at bats. What does that mean? I think it means he gets traded to another organization OR if he sticks with the Diamondbacks it is as the CF, late game defensive replacement and to spell the other OFs (basically as a 4th/5th OF). I am not arguing Parra’s value or at his price, just that the Diamondbacks actions indicate they don’t seem to value him at a corner OF position for what his bat produces at the plate.

At the end of the day Parra would probably produce similar WAR value on Fangraphs to a Kubel/Ross platoon, and at a fraction of the price. The Diamondbacks actions indicate Parra doesn’t produce enough value for them, in the way they want it.

Ruki Motomiya
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Ruki Motomiya
3 years 8 months ago

Upton/Eaton/Parra, Ross spells in and plays vs. lefties, well protected against injury because Ross can play everyday in a pinch, plenty of value to be had and an outfielder to use if Upton is traded.

Valuearb
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Valuearb
3 years 8 months ago

Towers every action indicates he doesn’t understand value in any form.

Kubel hits for power & is veteran = good proven quantity.

Parra doesn’t hit for power and is cheap & young = bad and untrustworthy.

There you go, KT GM lesson #1 for free, when in doubt take the older player or the higher BA, and never trust advanced stats.

Lesson #2, ignore roster composition. If a shiny vet outfielder is available, get him, even if it means breaking up the strength of your team, a scintillating outfield defense. If you need a shortstop, trade your plus center fielder for a mediocre no hit shortstop. Then trade your best pitching prospect for a younger version of the mediocre no hit shortstop to slightly upgrade your prior lame acquisition.

Who knows how many top prospects Towers will give up next week if a slightly better shortstop becomes available.

channelclemente
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channelclemente
3 years 8 months ago

For god’s sake look at Ross home/away splits. He’s a Boston Bandbox Baby.

Paul
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Paul
3 years 8 months ago

You mean the 141/92 wRC+ split (L/R, not H/R) for his career?

Mark
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Mark
3 years 8 months ago

Or Parra as the LH platoon partner since he can’t hit lefties either.

Valuearb
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Valuearb
3 years 8 months ago

Good thing 75% of MLB PAs are against RHP, otherwise a dumb GM might be tempted to spend $27m on a platoon partner.

Brad
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Brad
3 years 8 months ago

I doubt Cody Ross signed this deal if he was told he would be a platoon guy.

MBD
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MBD
3 years 8 months ago

I like this signing, if only because it has now given us the phrase “the actual Kubel” and the idea of forms of Kubel. I have a picture in my head of Kubels all over the field, with a shorter form of Kubel at second and a skinnier form of Kubel in center.

Pitnick
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Pitnick
3 years 8 months ago

Stacked correctly, Kubels tessellate.

Damaso's Burnt Shirt
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Damaso's Burnt Shirt
3 years 8 months ago

They’ll probably be trading Kubel and Bits.

Jackson
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Jackson
3 years 8 months ago

Rumors have it that Braves are involved in trade talks for Dexter Fowler, but if we can’t pull that off, I wouldn’t mind the idea of a trade for Kubel. He does have a mutual option for 2014 so there is a chance of him being more than a one year rental.

Indiana Bob
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Indiana Bob
3 years 8 months ago

Parra has a lot of value, especially as a center fielder, but that is also Adam Eaton’s best position.

Have to believe they are trading Parra.

Forrest Gumption
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Forrest Gumption
3 years 8 months ago

Parra is a huge upgrade who gets 600 PA’s in the OF with the Twins, Astros, Rangers, Mariners, Marlins, Royals, Mets & Cubs. He doesn’t get that with AZ.

Trade him, let him play. Its always a tragedy to see perfectly good players getting their playing time cut because of front office blunders when guys like Jeff Francoeur have everyday jobs.

BX
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BX
3 years 8 months ago

Cue the Parra to Astros for a reliever deal in 54321.

Ruki Motomiya
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Ruki Motomiya
3 years 8 months ago

This is a great idea for platooning. Kubel is gone in one year and getting older, Parra is only 25. You trot out Ross against lefties instead of Kubel or Parra and can put him in to give people a rest and he’s still competent. When Kubel is gone you have a great outfield of Upton/Parra/Eaton with Ross as a 4th outfielder/platoon. In addition, it means you have someone who can play regularly in case of injury. They should be able to extract plenty of value at 3/28.

hk
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hk
3 years 8 months ago

“Kubel is gone in one year and getting older”

Isn’t Ross, who’s 18 months older than Kubel, also getting older? Will they really extract plenty of value out of Ross if they hold him to ~200 PA’s in his age 32 season, then use him as a regular in his age 33 and age 34 seasons?

Matty Brown
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Member
Matty Brown
3 years 8 months ago

Clearly a platoon, and a effective one at that. Also provides insurance if they trade Upton.

ValueArb
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ValueArb
3 years 8 months ago

Where is the insurance for having a horrible outfield? Cause if Upton is shipped it will be one of the worst in baseball. Kubel is such a disaster defensively that he’ll have to hit .330 to be an above average player, and Ross is a mediocrity.

Parra-CY-Upton were two decent bats combined with one great bat, and all three very good defenders.

Now that KT broke it up, it doesn’t matter how “flexible” the new outfield is, it’s not a strength to be able to swap in a fresh turd when one of your turds pulls a hammy.

hk
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hk
3 years 8 months ago

If the D-Backs were looking for someone for the short-side of an OF platoon, why didn’t they just keep Chris Young? Young has a higher wOBA than Ross vs. LHP’s over the past 3 seasons, is a much better fielder and base runner and is younger. If not Chris Young, why didn’t they target someone like Jonny Gomes in free agency or trade for someone like John Mayberry, Jr.? Both Gomes and Mayberry, Jr. have produced similar or better wOBA’s than Ross vs. LHP’s over the past 3 seasons.

I think they see Ross as getting 1,500+ PA’s over the life of this deal and I expect them to sell low again on an OF that they view as a surplus.

Paul
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Paul
3 years 8 months ago

While he’s no longer an average CFer, clearly Ross offers better positional versatility than Gomes. And I think locking him into a platoon only is narrow thinking. If that’s truly all they signed him for, it’s dumb. But you have positional flexibility; a guy who can play every day for long stretches and not kill you; and he feasts on lefthanders to platoon with a guy who can’t hit them at all, in a division that features two of the top 5 lefties in baseball.

Kevin Towers may just be channeling his inner Billy Beane, who knows players get hurt, so a logjam is a tweaked hammy on a ST infield grounder runout away from smooth runnings. Also, any of those guys is trade bait at any time to address a need somewhere else.

BX
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BX
3 years 8 months ago

Yeah, but all these things are also done by Chris Young, who is only signed to one guaranteed year (+ an option).

The only thing they get with Ross that they don’t get with Young is a guaranteed 2015 + a possibility of having him for 2016, which is more likely to be a net negative than a net positive.

If Ross reverts back to pre-2012 form, the DBacks can’t back out of the deal. If Young never recovers from his 2012 injury (which arguably sapped his performance), the A’s can cut bait after 2013.

hk
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hk
3 years 8 months ago

If Kevin Towers was channeling his inner Billy Beane, he would not have traded Chris Young to Billy Beane’s team for Cliff Pennington.

Forrest Gumption
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Forrest Gumption
3 years 8 months ago

If I’m Parra, I’m demanding a trade. He is an everyday player on pretty much every team, getting buried by the AZ front office. Let him play, he’s very good.

Valuearb
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Valuearb
3 years 8 months ago

I object to the characterization of Jason Kubel in this article as an “outfiekder”. He’s a DH, he just stands in left field due to an obscure rule on how DHs can be used in the NL that Towers wasn’t aware of when he signed him.

Fortunately KT has finished eliminating the Achilles heel of the 2011 team, the utter boring certainty that balls hit into the Parra-Young-Upton outfield would be caught,, instead of the interesting adventures that Kubel creates out of them.

B N
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B N
3 years 8 months ago

“the defensive gap among them — Ross at -3, Kubel at -7 — isn’t that substantial.”

I have no idea how this conclusion was arrived at. Ross has a career UZR/150 of -1 in CF and 0 overall. Kubel has a career UZR/150 of -14 entirely in corner outfield spots. That’s more like 0 vs -14. Or, in other words, a huge difference.

Even if we just look at more recent years, I still have no idea how this conclusion was arrived at. Kubel’s last 3 years were: -5.4, -7, and -20 UZR/150. Ross was +3, -8.4, +3 UZR/150. Those differences are: +8, -1.4, +23. And, again, this is with Ross playing significant numbers of innings in CF (which you generally give a +5 to +10 advantage in UZR when moving to a corner spot) and Kubel not playing a single inning in CF.

Can we have some sort of breakdown of why Ross was arbitarily assigned a -3 UZR? Because by my reading of his recent years, he’s at least a 0 at a corner outfield spot in recent years, while Kubel is at least a -7 and possibly much worse (what with 3 consecutive years with about -20 UZR/150). 7 runs is a pretty major difference. Add in the adjustment if you play Ross at CF, and you’re looking at more like 12 runs advantage. That is nothing less than massive.

brendan
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brendan
3 years 8 months ago

this. ross should be described as ~1 win more valuable on defense than kubel for 400-500PA. ross is above average in a corner and can cover CF. kubel is well below avg in a corner.

shoewizard
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shoewizard
3 years 8 months ago

Parra is arb eligible, so he could possibly be moved and they play Ross in CF. If Kubel isn’t moved then that seems like the most likely scenario to me.

So the defensive downgrades, with Ross in CF and Kubel in left, and Eaton as 4th outfielder are truly severe. This is going to really hurt Ian Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs and David Hernandez.

If Kubel is moved, then the OF defense will be better than 2012, but still not as good as 2011.

wedemeyer
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wedemeyer
3 years 8 months ago

Ross is useless against righties. It’s an overpay for a weak side platoon. The Red Sox estimated Ross’ demands and signed the Ross hitting clone Gomes for $5mn / yr. Sabean said no thanks last winter also.

Although, a Kubel – Ross platoon is a potential monster one and cheaper overall to Josh Hamiton.

It’s interesting that the Dbacks don’t let Parra rip.

Randy
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Randy
3 years 8 months ago

Insurance for Upton, perhaps, but also insurance for Goldschmidt, if he struggles (Kubel could move to 1B).

If I remember correctly, Kubel/Ross have the same platoon split.

Surfdoc
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Surfdoc
3 years 8 months ago

If a platoon, Scott Hairston is available to fill the same role as Ross for probably $20 million less. It’s a head scratcher.

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