David Ross thought the entire offseason was bizarre enough. As the former Red Sox catcher put it, ‘I was blown away and flattered by the offers and opportunities that came my way. It really shocked me.’
Then the morning of Dec. 19 came around, and that took the unpredictability to another level.
“That last day was crazy,” Ross said by phone Friday afternoon.
Ross is the new owner of a two-year, $5 million deal with the Cubs, an agreement that was unofficially announced the Friday night before Christmas. But it was earlier that day when things took a turn he never saw coming.
Here’s what happened …
The day before, Thursday, Ross had informed the Red Sox he was going to verbally commit to the Cubs. Chicago had extended a two-year contract, which was a level the Red Sox didn’t appear ready to commit to.
According to the catcher, the Cubs’ signing of Jon Lester ‘ the pitcher Ross had caught with so much success over the previous two seasons ‘ also most likely had some impact on both the organizations’ offers.
“I think the two-year deal ‘¦ I don’t know what pushed the Red Sox out, but I think the two-year deal may have been a little more than they wanted to go, to be honest with you,” Ross explained. “They didn’t say that, but I think that’s where they were at. I don’t know if Lester had anything to do with it. They told me it was independent of Lester. They didn’t stop their pursuit of me after Lester signed. But they might have been more aggressive if Lester came back. I don’t know that, but if I were them ‘¦ I think about that, trying to take me out of it and trying to be real and see what an organization would want or what would I give me if I were an organization.”
Then, later that Thursday, San Diego — whom had already been rebuffed by Ross two different times throughout the offseason — came back with a fairly aggressive offer. It was a proposal that was relayed to Ross by his agent, Ryan Gleichowski, Friday morning. He told Gleichowski they could talk about it after the catcher finished his workout.
To Ross’ surprise, there was plenty to discuss after those two hours at the gym.
There had been the agreement by the Padres to trade catcher Ryan Hanigan ‘ whom was just acquired by San Diego three days earlier ‘ to the Red Sox in exchange for Will Middlebrooks. And then a report that Ross had also agreed to a deal with the Padres.
“It was a really weird day,” he said. “I went to sleep and got up the next morning and my agent told me the Padres had made another offer. I told him I was going to workout and we would talk when I got out. I literally got out of the gym, turned on my radio and they said David Ross had committed to the Padres. I couldn’t believe it. So I got my agent on the phone right away to try and figure that out. For about two hours of my day, it was crazy.
“I had turned [the Padres] down twice, saying no right away. I hadn’t fully committed to the Cubs, but I had. I wanted to be a man of my word. Me and Theo [Epstein] go back to ‘08 and I respect him. Once Boston was off the table, I had already put my heart with Chicago.”
Despite not having any inside knowledge, the deal of Hanigan to the Red Sox didn’t surprise Ross. Even after San Diego’s deal for the former Reds and Rays backstop, the Padres had kept pursuing Ross, with the catcher’s good friend and former teammate Dave Roberts taking lead in San Diego’s communication.
“They were still calling for me so I knew they were going to move someone,” Ross said. “Then I heard they might move Middlebrooks to San Diego and I knew the Red Sox had always liked Hanigan. Ben had called me on him before they signed A.J. [Pierzynski] but I don’t think it was going to work out with Cincinnati. I knew they really liked Hanigan so I just started assuming they were going to deal Hanigan, and sure enough. I didn’t know any of that was going on the next day when I was at the gym. It was crazy.”
After assuring Epstein and Cubs that there was no agreement with the Padres, and he remained committed to Chicago, the reality of joining Joe Maddon‘s team truly sunk in.
There were no hard feelings toward the Red Sox. (“I had told them I will not make a decision without talking to them first,” he said. “They were going to get right of first refusal. So we checked in every couple of weeks. We kind of agreed that if I was going to go a different way that I would give them a head’s up and let them know what the offer was. They were a treat to deal with, to be honest with you.”) But the combination of the two years, along with family-related factors paved the way for Ross’ decision.
“I really didn’t think there were a whole lot of teams interested, and interested to the level they were,” said Ross, who was limited to 86 regular season games in two seasons with the Red Sox. “When you have the year I had ‘¦ I hadn’t been a part of a whole lot of losing teams, maybe it drains you a little bit mentally and you start wondering about how much longer I could play this game and if teams will be interested. I was going to be 38 years old, not having a good offensive years and my defensive numbers were down. Coming off the high of the year before it was sort of depressing. So, yeah, it was totally different than how I thought it would shake out, to be honest with you.”
He added, ‘Kind of the deciding factor with Chicago was that I have some friends there, Joe Maddon‘s approach to the game and how he treats players. That is a really good dynamic for my family. If you get in at midnight you’re not expected to be at the yard at 2 o’clock. Those sort of things weighed on my mind a little more. The day game, talking to [Ryan] Dempster, was more of cool thing that I thought. You get to have breakfast with your kids and then also have dinner with them. But the two-year offer, and [Eric] Hinske is a good buddy of mine ‘¦ Knowing how the Red Sox treat their players and how they do everything first-class made it a tough decision. They try and take as much off their plate as possible so they can just focus on baseball, and I know Theo is big into the mindset of how they think and what they should focus on ‘¦ To me, there were more positives in Chicago for me and my family.’