The Marlins made an interesting move over the weekend, allowing the San Francisco Giants to take Cody Ross without any return after the Giants claimed the outfielder on waivers. I was shocked myself to see that the Fish received nothing in return for Ross’ services, especially given the fact that Ross still had a season left of team control. Combine that with the fact that Ross was a fan and clubhouse favorite, and it seems puzzling that the team would do such a thing. How could this move be conceived as a positive for the Fish? Well, let’s go through what the move takes away and gives to us.
Cody Ross was projected as about an average hitter going forward this season (projected .334 wOBA, +1 runs against average in 117 PA according to ZiPS). Traditionally, I’ve had Ross rated as an average center fielder, which is essentially +2.5 runs/162 games, or basically half a run with almost 40 games remaining this year. In other words, Ross is a pretty average player when projected; his 2010 loss of power offensively really ate into his offensive contributions, but he was always a solid, if unspectacular defender. Losing a player like this for another 120 PA and a little less than 40 games (considering rest) would be worth about four runs for the rest of the year, or maybe 0.5 win.
Half a win in the 2009 offseason free agent market is worth about $1.4M. The Marlins owed $4.45M to Ross this season, meaning we would be paying about $1.1M for the remainder of the season if he sticks around. Yes, it seems like a slight surplus, but it isn’t anything to get mad about. Financially, the Marlins decided they would rather save the $1.4M rather than receive the surplus $0.3M in production, which is reasonable given the Marlins’ current state of playoff contention. The Fish have a 1.12% chance at making the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus’ latest playoff odds, and replacing Ross with a replacement level player would not take away significantly from the team’s chances.
The Marlins promoted Cameron Maybin once more, looking to give him the remainder of August and September to work on his problems at the plate. We’ve already discussed some of the issues he has had as a hitter because of his mediocre plate recognition and difficulty making contact. Maybin was demoted in the middle of 2010 after hitting just .225/.290/.341, but has once again impressed while playing for Triple-A New Orleans. Maybin hit.338/.407/.508 in Triple-A, which translates to a .323/.379/.489 line according to BP’s Davenport Translations.
While these may be encouraging signs, a similar situation occurred last season, when Maybin was demoted in May after struggling and returned from a very good Triple-A season. In 2009, Maybin hit .319/.399/.463 in Triple-A, returned to the majors and continued on a hot streak, but then faltered at the start of the 2010 season. The strikeout numbers in Triple-A in 2009 and 2010 are pretty similar as well (16.9% in 2009, 16.3% in 2010). The improvements in 2009 apparently did not translate to 2010 success, and these similar numbers may not lead to a good 2011.
Is the solution to bring up Maybin and have him work on his plate problems in the majors? I don’t know, but at this point it cannot hurt. In 490 Triple-A plate appearances, Maybin has hit .325/.401/.477, more or less proving that he can handle the level at this point of his career. The Marlins need to allow him to play in the majors to see if he can be more than Quad-A fodder, and if that would only happen if Ross was not on the team this season, than the Marlins made an acceptable move for the long-term future of the team. I would not go so far as to say it was a “good” move, but it is an understandable one, especially for a tight-wad team out of contention in the current season.