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With the signing of Shane Victorino to a three-year contract and Ben Cherington’s insistence that Jacoby Ellsbury is the center fielder, Cody Ross has become the odd man out in the Red Sox outfield. In order for Boston to truly have a shot at bringing him back, they would have to offer him at minimum (as a courtesy/apology) the same deal that was just given to Victorino. I am stunned that Ross was not considered more of a priority, but his “inability” to play centerfield (though he had to on multiple occasions last season) may be what made the difference in the eyes of Red Sox management.
The affable Cody Ross may become the next in a line of players who have been acquired by the Red Sox for the short term and were let go when their contract ran out. Below, we’re going to take a look at the last few players to have been dealt this hand by Boston, and what their career looked like afterwards.
At the trade deadline in 2008, Manny Ramirez had worn out his welcome in Boston, and he was dealt to the Dodgers (go figure) in a three-team deal that netted Boston left fielder Jason Bay. Bay was a fastball hitter who had the perfect swing for Fenway Park, and it showed during his time with the team.
During the stretch run in ’08, as the team tried to defend its ’07 title, Bay put up a line of .293/.370/.527 while driving in 37 runs in only 49 games with the team. The team lost in the ALCS to Tampa, but Bay had one more year under contract to try and prove his worth to the Red Sox. In 2009, Bay set career numbers with a monster year, driving in 119 runners and hitting 36 home runs, ten of which he launched over the Green Monster.
For a team that is now rebuilding specifically to improve their hitting at home, they had an awfully good thing going with Bay, but at the end of the season, they let him walk, and the New York Mets signed him to a monster contract, of which they just released him from. Bay spent the next few years battling concussion problems, struggling to stay on the field. Sure, you could argue that the Red Sox made the right move looking back at it now, but this is a guy with no prior injury history, as he had played in at least 145 games every year since 2005 (where he played in all 162).
That could not have been their thought at the time, which means they just didn’t want to pay a guy who performed for them. In 2010, their primary left fielder was Daniel Nava, as they wasted money signing Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury spent the year on the shelf. Even with Bay failing to produce after leaving, I still think that move was a mistake.
In 2009, as Bay was in the middle of his assault on opposing pitchers’ fastballs, the Red Sox made another deadline deal to land switch-hitting catcher Victor Martinez from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Bryan Price, Nick Hadagone, and Justin Masterson (who has been recently been linked to the Red Sox again). Martinez appeared in 56 games that year for Boston, posting a .336/.405/.507 line while driving in 41 base runners. As was the case with Bay, VMart had one more season to prove his worth and remain in a Red Sox uniform.
Though there was a platoon role with Varitek and he suffered through a minor injury, Martinez still played in 127 games. While his season was not as impressive as Bay’s power-wise, you could argue that he put up excellent numbers for the situation (.302/.351/.493) while driving in 79 runs and still hitting 20 home runs. It’s questionable now whether or not Red Sox catchers (including Mike Napoli) will even sniff a .275 batting average, but Martinez was let go all the same.
In 2011, the Red Sox chose to acquire Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who put up some less than inspiring numbers, while VMart went to Detroit on a four-year deal worth $12.5MM per year.
To put that in perspective, the team just paid Mike Napoli a contract with a higher average annual value at the same age, and he was coming off a year of career lows. Martinez went on to hit .330/.380/.470 with Detroit, though he did miss all of 2012 with an injury sustained in the offseason.
I absolutely would have handed Martinez the money instead of letting him go; if that meant not signing Carl Crawford and having a guy who could split time between catcher and first base while still hitting over .300, I would do that any day of the week.
In 2010, Mike Lowell had turned 36 years old, and the Red Sox needed someone to man the hot corner every day. Enter Adrián Beltré, a slick-fielding third baseman who was coming off some disastrous years with the Seattle Mariners. After a career year with the Dodgers in ’04 where he hit 48 home runs, Beltré signed a very lucrative contract with Seattle and proceeded to hit 103 home runs over the course of five years. The Red Sox, and agent Scott Boras, saw an opportunity and ran with it; at under-market value, the Red Sox got their third baseman and Beltré got a season to reestablish himself as one of the premier hitters in the majors. He proceeded to hit .321/.365/.553 while driving in 102 runs and hitting 28 home runs, the most since 2004.
As the offseason came around, the Red Sox decided to part ways with Beltré; they traded the farm away for Adrián Gonzaléz and slid Kevin Youkilis over to the hot-corner, leaving Beltré out in the cold. The Sox were touted as the best team in history in 2011, and everyone knows what happened then. Meanwhile, Beltré signed a five-year deal with the Rangers and has been easily the best third baseman in the American League (before Miguel Cabrera moved over, but are we really considering him a third baseman?), hitting .310/.347/.561, crushing 66 home runs, driving in 207 runs, and earning two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger; he even finished third in the MVP voting last year behind Mike Trout and Cabrera.
The Sox are left without any of the players used to replace him, and a last place finish in the American League East. Letting Beltré walk could easily have been the team’s biggest mistake of the three, though they have found a more-than-competent replacement in Will Middlebrooks.
Now here we are in 2012, and the Red Sox are in the same situation; they signed a great clubhouse guy to small money for one year and he produced. He was one of the best hitters on the team when he played, but the team has seemingly moved on in another direction, leaving Ross to wonder what he did wrong. Even after providing the single most joyous moment of the year, as he nailed a walk-off home run in the middle of the summer, he still wasn’t good enough for Boston to shell out the money to keep him around. He’s a fan favorite, and management will not be doing themselves any favors by spurning a guy who has been an excellent clubhouse presence since the moment he got to town.
When I look at valuing one player versus another while the Red Sox make their moves, there is always one trait I weigh extremely highly: can this guy play in Boston? Too many times the Red Sox have searched for options to replace proven Boston guys with other market players, and it hasn’t panned out. The list of failed acquisitions by this ownership includes Carl Crawford, Adrián Gonzaléz, Mike Cameron, Julio Lugo, Edgar Renteria, Kelly Shoppach, John Lackey, Jeremy Hermida, Brad Penny, Wily Mo Pena, and Eric Gagne, just to name a few. There was a common thread to most of these players; they had had success elsewhere and just couldn’t hack it in Boston. Guys who show up everyday and prove that they belong need to be treated with a type of reverence by this town, because it isn’t easy, and management takes that fact for granted.
Cody Ross embodied everything fans wanted to see from their Red Sox while they were in a year-long nose dive, and Cherington and Lucchino are going to reward him by hanging him out to dry. This could just be the next player in the list of mistakes.
Statistics courtesy of BaseballReference.com