Yes, this article is completely reactive to David Ross‘ opposite-field home run off of David Price on Sunday. But David Ross might be the best backup catcher in baseball and has to a player that the Rays will considering trading for.
Before we start with the serious considerations, it’s notable the Ross’ middle name is Wade. Why does make a difference? Because it seems like every player named Wade has a Rays connection. We have Wade Davis, Wade Boggs, Wade Townshend, Wes Bankston (middle name Wade), Cory Wade, and Wade Miley and Wade LeBlanc were drafted by the Rays but did not sign. There’s also another minor leaguer for the Rays named Wade Broyles. Incredible. Maybe Ross is just meant to be a Ray.
Now, let’s get to Ross, 35, was a 7th round pick by the Dodgers in 1998 out of the University of Florida (that’s another connection!). Ross made his big league debut with the Dodgers in 2002, going 2 for 10 with both of his hits going for extra-bases, a homer and a double. Then next season, Ross was on the Dodgers’ roster from May until the end of the year, appearing in just 40 games as the Dodgers’ backup catcher thanks to the incredible durability of Paul Lo Duca (147 games). But he sure made the most of them. Ross posting a .258/.336/.556 line with 7 doubles, 10 homers, and 18 RBI. He hit 3 more homers than Lo Duca in 107 less games! Ross also posted a 36% CS% But 2004 did not go nearly as well for Ross as his line fell to just .170/.253/.291 with 3 doubles, 5 homers, and 15 RBI even in 70 games, and his CS% fell to 31%. In 2005, Ross failed to make the Dodgers’ roster and as a result was traded to the Pirates prior to the season for cash considerations. Ross posted just .222/.263/.380 line in 40 games with the Pirates posting 8 doubles, 3 homers, and 15 RBI before getting traded to the San Diego Padres in exchange for J.J. Furmaniak (who would later be a Rays minor league- yet another connection). Ross went 6 for 17 (.353) in 11 games for the Padres the rest of 2005 but was traded prior to the Cincinnati Reds prior to the start of the 2006 season after the Padres acquired Mike Piazza and Adrian Gonzalez.
With the Reds, Ross set a career high with 73 starts at catcher and made the most of them, posting a .255/.353/.579 line with 15 doubles, 21 homers, and 52 RBI. He set career highs in nearly every offensive category. Defensively, Ross posted a 45% CS%, showing value in the crouch in addition to at the plate. Ross was impressive enough that he started 98 games for the Reds in 2007. But his performance slipped across the board as he fell to a .203/.271/.399 line with 10 doubles, 17 homers, and 39 RBI in 112 games overall. Defensively, his CS% was a nice 41%. He performed badly enough that the Reds reduced his role significantly in 2008. He made just 43 starts for the Reds, posting a .231/.381/.366 line with 9 doubles, 3 homers, and 13 RBI. His CS% free-fell to 29%, just above league average. The Reds waived him in August and he signed with the Boston Red Sox, where he went 1 for 8 in 9 plate appearances.
In December of 2008, Ross signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent. He hasn’t left. In 177 games, Ross has posted a .276/.367/.477 line with 32 doubles, 17 homers, and 76 RBI. His OPS+ has been 128 and combining with his 39% CS% including a league-leading 48% mark in 2009, he has been worse 4.2 WAR. If that was all one season, what a city it would have been. Ross has been the best backup catcher in the major leagues. But if Ross got a starting gig, it’s clear that he would not perform that well. In his career, Ross has a moderate -.464 correlation between plate appearances and OPS, meaning that in general (but certainly not in every case), as his plate appearances have increased his OPS has tended to decrease. In his one real chance as a starter with Cincinnati, Ross floundered. And not to mention that he’s already 35 years old. Nevertheless, especially for a Rays organization with very little catching depth, he has to be a player for them to consider.
Ross is signed for one more season at 1.625 million dollars. So trading for him would be a rental- and the Rays would have to negotiate some type of extension so that would not be the case. Assuming that’s possible, what’s Ross’ trade value? The Braves appreciate Ross. They know how valuable he is defensively and also in the batter’s box. Considering Brian McCann has gone down a couple times in the past few seasons, it’s a great luxury for the Braves to have a player like Ross to step in. They’re not going to part with him for nothing. Here’s an example of a somewhat realistic trade.
The Braves trade their valued backup but in return add to their crazy pitching step with the high-upside Romero. Romero is actually a great fit for a team like the Braves with pitching depth because they can give him time to develop (although the same is true for the Rays). Nommensen isn’t the most highly-touted prospect but he’s a throw-in in this deal and happens to play a position of need in the Braves system. Maybe the Rays would add or replace the throw-in prospect with a serviceable backup catcher type like a Chris Gimenez or Jose Lobaton (the Rays would definitely prefer trading Lobaton of those two).
What could Ross give the Rays? The Rays can’t expect him to suddenly walk in and become the solid starting catcher hitting for some power, getting on base, and playing good defense that he has never been for an extended period. But he has the ability to team with a Jose Molina-type and provide a little more offense. The Rays need that. Ross has some power, a commodity the Rays would appreciate have more of. Would I pull the trigger on the trade above? Romero could be a nice pitcher someday, but I would do it in a second. Ross isn’t an elite player by any stretch. But for a Rays team that is having trouble finding a catcher that can provide any offensive value, Ross would be a revelation. Don’t be surprised if we start seeing a whole lot more of Ross starting this summer.