Whither Gabe Gross?

Interestingly enough, one name that hasn’t seen any play whatsoever this offseason is that of Gabe Gross. Surely, Gross isn’t anything approaching a household name, as the roles he’s played on first the Milwaukee Brewers and then the Tampa Bay Rays have been relatively minor. Still, in only 935 plate appearances over the last three years, Gross has compiled 3.8 wins above replacement, combining well above average fielding with an average bat in the corners of the outfield. So why hasn’t his name popped up at all?

Honestly, it’s hard to say. Gross will be 31 for most of this season, which is probably his biggest red flag. He’s also coming off his worst hitting year since he joined the Brewers in 2006, as his .306 wOBA was only good for a 86 wRC+. Also, his excellent glove (+21 UZR in RF over 196 DG since 2007) is not as valued in a corner outfield spot as it would be at a premium position like CF or 2B.

And yet, even in this down season, Gross still was worth a pro-rated 1.5 wins per 600 plate appearances. CHONE and Marcel both expect for him to return to roughly average with the bat, and even accounting for regression on defense, Gross is a good bet for another 1.5 WAR/150 G season. It seems we are no closer than when we started to answering our question.

It’s possible that Gross or his agent are holding out for a contract with some sort of significant guaranteed money similar to or greater than his 2009 salary of $1.3M. With teams still waiting to hear about their arbitration hits and the fact that on many teams he would be relegated to a 4th outfielder position, all combined with the continued downturn in the market for wins, Gross is in a poor position to ask for even a semi-large contract.

Eventually, some team will land a great asset in Gross, as no raise he gets will approach the $5M-$7M value that he is likely to provide. It’s only a matter of time until we find out which team that is.




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22 Responses to “Whither Gabe Gross?”

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  1. rh146 says:

    Eh, it’s a shame that defense isn’t valued in corner outfield positions. Metrics aside, just watching premium hitters being stuck in corner outfield struggling with fundamentals of defense (missing relays, cut-off etc.) is probably my biggest pet peeve watching pro baseball.

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  2. Felonius_Monk says:

    There are presumably only a handful of teams that he’s currently of interest to, as a glove-first corner outfield major end of a platoon. Gross cannot hit left-handed pitching, at all, and is thus a platoon piece only. Given that guys like Hinske, Church and Rick Ankiel have already signed for teams, I presume there aren’t too many ballclubs looking for a guy with Gross’s particular skillset.

    Also, as you say, it may be that he’s looking for a raise, when the poor offensive year he had in 2009 (plus the poor FA market) probably means that most GMs would be looking to actually REDUCE his salary to sign him. Given Hinske signed for $1.5m and is probably a better player, it seems unlikely anyone will give Gross more than that, so if he’s looking for a raise, he’s probably out of luck.

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    • Joe R says:

      Hinske’s been a good player the past 2 seasons. I think he’s hurt by the perception that he could’ve been a star, but didn’t pan out that way.

      2.8 marginal wins in 656 PA of work is nothing to scoff at, though. Not to mention having him on your team gives you a backup at 1B, 3B, LF, and RF. No idea why more teams don’t value that.

      No I’m not saying give Hinske 2 year / $13,000,000, but I’d gladly offer him a $2-$3 mil contract to play for my team.

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  3. Joe R says:

    The problem is, Gross is an extreme platoon player. His sample size v. lefties is small, but his stats v. lefties are so bad, that managers probably know ahead of time that it’s almost useless to start him v. lefties by watching him (yes I know, SSS AND eye check, blasphemy).

    That being said, the White Sox definitely have some offensive question marks in the outfield heading into 2010. He makes sense as a platoon option there.

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  4. DavidCEisen says:

    Prorated has no hyphen, nor are you using it correctly.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Apparently Fangraph readers are against proper word usage. “Prorated” is used when dividing something up–not when projecting upwards. A prorated contract is often used to describe sports contracts for players signed for only part of a season. If a player signs halfway through the season for a $20 contracted that is prorated, he receives $10 million. The $10 million is the prorated amount, not the $20 million. So Jack’s use of the word is both incorrect in it being hyphened and in its usage.

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  5. Mike Green says:

    When Gross was younger, he could fill in capably in centerfield. It is probably a stretch now and this hurts his marketability in an era with short benches and crowded bullpens.

    One of the difficulties with translating WAR into actual usage is the prevailing wisdom/inefficiency. You’ll find many more sixth and seventh arms in the pen with projections under 1 WAR than utility/platoon OFs with projections between 1 and 1.5 WAR.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      But that’s what you should expect to see. There should be very few if any utility/platoon OF’s with a projection over 1 WAR. If they were that good, they would be full-time players. All 6th or 7th arms out of the pen are going to be projected at under 1 WAR.

      Or is that what you were trying to say and I just read that wrong?

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  6. Bill says:

    He may just be holding out for a guaranteed roster spot at this point, honestly.

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  7. NEPP says:

    Being completely neutralized by LHP hurts him. Its one thing to have a platoon split, its another to be completely neutered by it.

    Kinda tough to carve out a bench spot for a guy with such a limitation.

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    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      If LHP’s were the majority of pitchers, then I might agree with you, but he has the platoon advantage the majority of the time and plays a great RF, while being able to fill in at CF. He’s a great team guy that never complains about his role. Used correctly, he’s pretty good at getting on-base and can turn on a pitch now and then. I’m admittedly biased towards seeing Gross make a few million more before he’s done, but there’s more than a couple of teams that could use his services, no matter where they are on the win curve.

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      • NEPP says:

        You misunderstand me. I agree with all of what you’ve said. I’m just giving you the explanation of why he hasn’t signed yet. There’s also the issue of a good fit. For all we know, he might have gotten offers from teams like KC or SD and be simply wasn’t interested. Money’s tight, he’s a very specific fit and its a slow market.

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      • Sandy Kazmir says:

        I didn’t give you any of those thumbs down NEPP, I think we’re kinda of saying the same thing, but my view is more optimistic, and yours seems a little more grounded in reality. A lot of people don’t see the value in having a solid platoon, it seems like one concept hasn’t taken as much of a hold, but the Rays employ it as many places as they can. I’m not trying to say that you are part of that crowd.

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  8. chene says:

    I find these types of posts to be relatively pointless. You’re asking questions as to why a mediocre player hasn’t received a salary that’s based purely on the marginal value of a win for a Pujols/King Felix type of player for a contending team.

    If a bad baseball team signs Gabe Gross for $2M, then someone will lambaste the team for wasting $2M for a player that won’t add marginal revenue to that team. If a good baseball team spends $2M for Gabe Gross, you’re wasting $2M for a 31-year-old fifth outfielder who’s trending downward and is probably taking the roster spot of a decent prospect.

    Then you’ll have other people saying it’s a great value since he didn’t sign for $5M as Gross in reality maybe helps a team go from 75 wins to 75.5 wins.

    In other words, Gabe Gross is more like a true replacement player, e.g. someone who’s easily replaceable.

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  9. Mike Green says:

    Nathaniel, an average player is about 2 WAR according to Rally. An outfielder who can be expected to deliver between 1 and 1.5 WAR may very well be best used as a platoon player. Gross would be a classic example. In 1980, in the age of 5 man pens, Earl Weaver would have platooned him with Gary Roenicke; this happens much less now.

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    • Joe R says:

      Gross is a useful addition to be a platooner on a good team. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any competiting team that could really use a LHB to eat up 200-300 PA. And as a stated before, he’s pretty useless v. lefties.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      Ah yes, Wayne Gross. A very good platoon player for Earl Weaver. (well, mostly for Joe Altobelli).

      I’m still not sure what you’re trying to say. There would be very few players expected to deliver 1 to 1.5 WAR as a bench player. Very few teams are strong enough that they would keep a player that good playing part-time. If they were that good in a platoon or backup role, they would probably be playing full time and be projected at 2 to 3 WAR. Or, if a player would be expected to produce 1 to 1.5 WAR as a full-time player, his projection would be about 0 to 1 WAR as a platoon or backup player. About the only players that would be projected at 1 to 1.5 WAR are those who are expected to get full time play but just aren’t very good.

      “An outfielder who can be expected to deliver between 1 and 1.5 WAR may very well be best used as a platoon player……this happens much less now.”

      Which is why you will find very few if any platoon/backup players projected at 1 WAR or higher.

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  10. Jross says:

    When he said “pro-rated” he purposely meant to use the hyphen to describe the rate as proffessional.

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  11. yankeepowerhouse says:

    You people are dumb as a box of rocks, with your WAR stats etc.
    this is baseball, games are won on the field,defense wins ball games..pitchers lose because of bad defense, teams lose because of bad defense, you’re talking a bunch of nonsense regarding his against left handed pitching batting stats , a grand total of 177 career at bats vs lefty pitching isn’t going to tell you anything..
    put him out there for 162 games and let him play…the only way you’re going to get better at anything is work at it on a regular basis…
    he walks alot,would cut down on k’s playing regularly…
    yanks should sign him…

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