By now, all the dust has settled and all the smoke has cleared. The four year Braves career of David Ross has come to an end, as the veteran backup catcher has signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox for an average of $3.1 million per season. A lot of Braves fans are crushed over Ross leaving the team, and with good reason - he was an awesome and productive member of the team.
In his four seasons with the Braves (2009-2012), Ross was paid just $6.2 million (coincidentally, the exact amount he'll get over the next two years in Boston) and provided the Braves with 6.4 fWAR in 663 plate appearances. That is an absolutely insane level of production off the bench. To put that in perspective, Chipper Jones provided 5.0 fWAR of value over the last two seasons in 960 plate appearances while making $26 million. Defense has *a lot* to do with those fWAR numbers, but nevertheless, that puts into perspective just how valuable Ross has been.
Defensively, the value Ross brought to the Braves cannot be understated. In his four year Braves career, Ross threw out just under 40% of all attempted base stealers (39.8% to be exact). Contrast that to Brian McCann, who has thrown out 30% of base stealers just once in his entire career: 2010, when he caught exactly 30% of base thieves. That is an astounding statistic, and speaks to just how great Ross is as a receiver behind the plate.
With McCann's offseason shoulder surgery, the Braves are in a difficult spot. They can't exactly just throw their hands in the air and give someone like JC Boscan (a minor league free agent in his own right) the backup job behind McCann. The backup catcher for 2013 will probably end up logging substantial playing time this season, perhaps even more innings behind the plate than Ross did in 2012 (421 2/3 innings, for those curious). If the Braves backup catcher has the same characteristic that many backup catchers have (that is, they cannot hit worth a damn), the team is going to be losing valuable offensive production.
That blend of both offense and defense is what made Ross so valuable to the Braves, and what will make him missed so much. How many backup catchers can provide you with above average offense as well as elite defense? It's a very unique and interesting blend, and it's going to be tough to find a player like that on the free agent or trade market this winter. Look at some of the free agents: Henry Blanco, Rod Barajas, Gerald Laird, Miguel Olivo, Humberto Quintero, Kelly Shoppach...with the possible exception of Shoppach, they're all either inept offensively, defensively, or both. It's extremely tough to find the unique blend that Ross provided for the Braves this season.
But then again, finding a backup catcher that can fuel your team offensively doesn't exactly have to be a science. The Phillies came into the year with Brian Schneider backing up Carlos Ruiz, but eventually had to turn to career minor leaguer Erik Kratz once Schneider went down and the starter Ruiz had injury issues of his own. Of course, the 32-year old Kratz had an .810 OPS for the Phillies in 157 plate appearances and threw out 45% of attempted base stealers. You just don't know sometimes.
Overpaying a veteran just because that's your only option isn't something I'd recommend for the Braves, especially with how tight payroll is with this franchise. Simply giving a career minor leaguer like Kratz who never got much of a chance might work out for the best at the end of the day. Instead of browsing the veteran free agency list, why not look at the minor league free agents? There might just be a diamond in the rough that could save the season for the Braves, but honestly, there's a lot riding on this decision...more than that should be riding on it, considering it's for a bench position.
Yeah, it sucks but I cant say Im surprised or that I blame David for leaving. He's always been the best backup C in the big leagues and it was only a matter of time before someone offered him a full time job. Im happy that we have the ''problem' of Bmac in his way, but it does make these situations crummy. Wish David(like I do Matt Diaz) all the best and thank him for his contribution
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