The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a challenging offseason, as they work to improve on a team that went 69-93 in 2012. Although it may be a tiny blip on baseball’s radar, they made an excellent preliminary move earlier today by signing free agent catcher David Ross.
Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Red Sox and Ross agreed to a two-year, $6.2 million contract. Rosenthal later indicated on Twitter that Ross is expected to see extended playing time in 2013. This means the team will start to shift away from incumbent catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway, which should be seen as a good thing.
Last season Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway combined to hit a paltry .204 and threw out only 16.3 percent of attempted stolen bases. This type of production is unacceptable, especially given the kind of expectations the Red Sox have as a team every year. While Ross is far from a star he represents a significant upgrade at catcher.
Ross came to the majors as purely a glove man, but has continually improved with his bat during his 11-year MLB career. He had a combined total of 577 at bats while playing with the Atlanta Braves over the past four seasons. He hit .268 during that time, with 24 home runs and 94 RBI, making him an intriguing option for extended playing time in Boston.
The most welcome aspect of Ross’ game is his defense. He has a career .992 fielding percentage and has been an effective weapon in preventing stolen bases, throwing out 39 percent of runners, which according to BaseballReference places him fifth among all active catchers.
The Red Sox enter 2013 with as many question marks surrounding their pitching staff as any other team in baseball. With a combination of veterans returning from injury and/or struggles (Jon Lester, Andrew Bailey and John Lackey) and young developing arms (Rubby De La Rosa, Felix Dubront and Allen Webster), a confident and experienced catcher is a necessity to coax the best results.
Ross comes to Boston with a wealth of experience in working with young pitchers. He was with Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto in Cincinnati, and helped develop the likes of Tommy Hanson, Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, among others, in Atlanta.
Perhaps some of Kris Medlen’s amazing 2012 season, where he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA, can be attributed to Ross. In the 13 games where he had Ross as a battery mate last season, Medlen struck out 49 batters in 44.1 innings and allowed a microscopic 0.81 ERA. By comparison, he struck out 71 in 93.2 innings and had a 1.92 ERA when caught by anyone else.
Ross is no stranger to stressful situations or Boston itself. He will be 36 next year and even spent eight games with the Red Sox at the end of the 2008 season after being released by the Reds. The return of his calming influence will be a welcome addition to a team so accustomed to controversy and strife of late.
Nobody will mistake Ross as a star, or even a long-term solution at catcher for the Red Sox. What he will bring is quiet consistency; something that has been recently in short supply in Boston.
Statistics via BaseballReference
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