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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.