Cody Ross may have a shot at winning
his salary arbitration case based upon
settlement deals already reached
Today in Florida, centerfielder Cody Ross and the Florida Marlins headed to a salary arbitration hearing with the outcome determining if he will make his requested $4.45 million or receive the Marlins $4.2 million offering figure.
After today, there are only six players left in salary arbitration. Ross’ case will be the third hearing this season with the clubs and players split on rulings. Last week, Corey Hart won his case over the Brewers while the Rays remained perfect in salary arbitration winning their 5th case with B.J. Upton. With the ruling announced tomorrow, here’s how the Ross arb case stacks up.
Ross’ 2008 season was stronger than his 2009 which is the first negative sign. While his batting average and on-base percentage were higher than 2008, his OBP increase was half of what the BA increase was. In addition his slugging percentage dropped by 19 percentage points. So his batting line showed mild regression. His counting stats benefited from a career high 604 plate appearances as he had a career best season with doubles (37) and homeruns (24). A big advantage, he plays centerfield where offensive expectations are tempered. Defensive metrics have hardly stabilized, but the Marlins will no doubt suggest that he is not an exceptional defender. Further, his UZR/150 as measured by FanGraphs, was negative in both center and right field in 2009. In 2008 he was solidly in positive territory for both. I don't know what if any impact the club's plans for the coming year have on an arbitration hearing, but the expectation that Cameron Maybin will assume the centerfield job and push Ross to right where his batting line looks less impressive in relation to his peers is likely a motivating factor for the Marlins to take a hard line. One aspect benefiting Ross is he positively killed the pennant winning Phillies. Though much of that mashing was the result of hitting the ball exceptionally well in Citizens Bank Park. Another positive, though one I tend to overlook - he drove in 90 runs. I'd tend to explain that RBIs are highly context dependent, but an arbiter may see them as a sign that Ross is a solid run producer who drives runs in despite hitting lower in the batting order.
Some batting line numbers:
- 2008 overall .260/.316/.488
- 2009 overall .270/.321/.469
- 2009 vs. Philly .349/.359/.635
- 2009 @ Philly .500/.500/.962
On the up side for Ross, some of his comps that have settled this year give him a chance for a win, although based upon peers, his is a tough one to match. What do we mean? In terms of pure position to position players with 4 years of major league service time, Shane Victorino is the only other centerfielder in this year’s class. His slash line went.292/ .358/.445 with 10 HRs, and 62 RBIs. He also landed a multi-year deal that will see him earning $5 million this year. Since arb hearings shy away from multi-year deals due to how they can be loaded different ways, thus making them difficult for comparison purposes. To add to this, last year only saw one outfielder (oddly, another Marlin) Alfredo Amezaga, who reached a $1.3 million deal.
Baseball-reference lists Ross' most similar player comparison as Luke Scott. Scott interestingly settled for $4.05 million. He was a super two last year, so even though he's just a third year arbitration eligible player, like Ross he's on his second go-round.
So, to make a case, we’ll bring in corner outfielders out of this year’s class. They include the following with their 2010 salaries in brackets, plus we add in Ross’ asking:
- Corey Hart (* $4,800,000)
- Jeff Francoeur ($5,000,000)
- Scott Hairston ($2,500,000)
- Ryan Langerhans ($525,000)
- Ryan Ludwick ($5,450,000)
- Jose Bautista ($2,400,000)
- Josh Willingham ($4,600,000)
- Cody Ross ($4,450,000)
Note the asterisk for Corey Hart. He won his case in arbitration based largely on two players in this list: Francoeur and Willingham.
Suddenly, Ross’ case has a chance based upon the salaries these players have gained through settlement cases this year. We can throw out Langerhans as he had not played in 2009, and thus reached his lower salary.
- Hart is a career .273 hitter, with 67 home runs, 260 RBIs, a .326 OBP, and a .470 SLG% and was an All-Star in 2008
- Francoeur is a career .271 hitter with 88 home runs, 400 RBIs, a .311 OBP, and a .432 SLG%.
- Hairston is a career .252 hitter with 58 home runs, 162 RBIs, a .304 OBP, and .454 SLG %
- Ludwick is a career .271 hitter with 87 home runs, 306 RBIs, a .340 OBP, and 493 SLG% and was an All-Star in 2008
- Bautista is a career .238 hitter, with 59 home runs, 211 RBIs, a .329 OBP, and a .400 SLG%
- Willingham is a career .264 hitter with 87 home runs, 280 RBIs, a .362 OBP, and a .478 SLG%
- Ross is a career .264 hitter with 72 home runs, 254 RBIs, a .264 OBP, and a .484 SLG%
So, based upon how Ross’ camp makes their case, the $4.45 million does seem to have legs. He has the same batting average as Willingham, and slightly better power, his numbers are better than Bautista and Hairston at every level. The key may well be Hart, who hits slightly better for average, has less home runs, almost identical RBIs and lower OBP and SLG than Ross, but won his salary arbitration case.
As mentioned, the difficulty are the comps for Ross’ case given the thin pool of centerfielders to work from. Stil… The Hart ruling should give Ross a leg up. Given that there is all of $650,000 separating the sides, the case could go either way. However, we’re going with Ross on this one. By Tuesday, arbitrators James Oldham, Margaret Brogan and Howard Edelman will have ruled and the outcome will be known.
YAHOO! SPORTS ARTICLES ON SALARY ARBITRATION:
Inside a Tim Lincecum arbitration hearing - 2/10/10
Salary arbitration: Battle of the midpoint – 1/26/10
Evolution of salary arbitration: an ironic tale – 1/19/10
RESOURCES FOR SALARY ARBITRATION
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