Former Atlanta Braves backup catcher David Ross has signed a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox for $6.2 million. Ross is coming off of a contract that paid him $3.2 million over two years with the Braves, meaning that his salary will nearly double with his new club.
Ross's departure from Atlanta comes as a stunner to a fanbase that didn't even consider the possibility of him leaving Atlanta, where he spent the last four seasons as the primary backup to Brian McCann. In 2012, Ross saw action in 62 games and logged 196 plate appearances, posting a .770 OPS and providing Atlanta with 1.5 wins above replacement.
His defense is a major reason why the Red Sox signed him, though his bat probably helps matters a ton. Ross will apparently be "more than a backup, but not a starter" with Boston, who have last year's starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the offensively-minded Ryan Lavarnway returning from 2012 behind the plate. Ross represents a major defensive upgrade over both of those players, throwing out 15 of 34 attempted base stealers for a 44% kill rate. Compared to Saltalamacchia's 18 of 98 (18%) and Lavarnway's pathetic 3 of 31 (a hair under 10%), Ross looks like Johnny Bench behind the plate offensively.
You might look at this contract and think it's a little much for a backup catcher, but taking everything into acccount, Ross could still wind up behind underpaid in 2013 and 2014, unless he suddenly starts showing his age (36 in 2013, 37 in 2014). As for the Braves, they're going to need to do some scrambling to replace Ross on the roster, even with free agency still in its early days. The status of long-time starter Brian McCann and his shoulder for Opening Day is still up in the air, and the Braves have slim pickings in the free agent market to pick up a veteran backup, let alone one who could provide the value that Ross did to the team.