Even before Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick landed on the disabled list, the Oakland A's outfield was the thinnest aspect of their roster. Over the past eight months, the A's have traded -- or let go via free agency -- outfielders Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Jonny Gomes. The A's made several moves during the off-season, but they didn't add much by way of outfield depth, with the exception of Rule 5 pick Mark Canha. When Crisp and Reddick went down with spring injuries, the lack of veteran depth in the A's outfield became more glaring.
The A's took a step to improve that on Wednesday when they announced the signing of veteran Cody Ross. Ross was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday and he cleared waivers. The outfielder is owed $9.5 million this season under the final year of his contract with Arizona, but the A's will only be responsible for paying Ross the major league minimum while he remains on the roster.
Ross' stint with Arizona was a disappointment. He signed a three-year free agent deal with the Diamondbacks after a strong 2012 season with the Boston Red Sox. He struggled with injuries with Arizona, appearing in fewer than 100 games in both 2013 and 2014. Ross hit .278/.331/.413 in 94 games for the D-Backs in 2013, but his hitting line fell to .252/.306/.322 last year. Arizona, under new management, is looking to rebuild its roster and they decided to eat Ross' contract for 2015.
The A's will have plenty of insight into how Ross fared this spring with the D-Backs. Former A's bench coach Chip Hale is the new manager in Arizona, and former A's star Dave Stewart is the GM. Ross hit .256 for the D-Backs this spring.
Prior to his time with Arizona, Ross had seven straight seasons with at least 11 homeruns. In 2012 with Boston, Ross hit 22 homers in 130 games. He began his career with the Detroit Tigers, but Ross spent the bulk of his career with the then-Florida Marlins. In 2010, he was traded from Florida to San Francisco. Ross became a folk hero with the Giants when he hit three homers in six games in the NLCS and won the MVP. He homered five times in 15 games during the 2010 post-season, which resulted in the Giants' first World Series title in San Francisco.
Ross may fit a platoon role for the A's. He has a career 916 OPS versus left-handed pitchers, but his OPS versus right-handers is 711. He is limited defensively and is likely to be used mostly in left field. Ross has also been an excellent pinch-hitter throughout his career. In 113 career pinch-hit plate appearances, Ross is batting .299/.389/.526 with five homers.
The A's indicated that they would announce a corresponding roster move later on Wednesday. The corresponding move could result in a ripple effect of roster moves throughout the A's organization if a player is sent to Triple-A Nashville to make room for Ross. The A's four full-season minor league affiliates open their season on Thursday.
UPDATE: The A's announced on Wednesday afternoon that Billy Burns has been optioned to Triple-A Nashville to make room for Ross on the 25-man roster. To make room for Ross on the 40-man roster, the A's designated Alex Hassan for assignment. This is the fourth time Hassan has been DFA'd since the end of last season -- and the second time he has been DFA'd by the A's. In his previous three trips through waivers, Hassan was claimed (twice by the A's).