Reds sign Ross to two-year deal
Catcher avoids arbitration, gains club option through 2009
CINCINNATI -- For the first time in a playing career that's seen his zip code change more times than he'd like, catcher David Ross finally has something he's long craved.Stability. Coming off a breakout season with the Reds, Ross avoided arbitration and was rewarded on Monday with a two-year, $4.54 million contract with a $3.5 million club option for 2009. Ross, 29, batted .255 in 2006 with a career-high 21 home runs and 52 RBIs. He played in a career-high 90 games. "He's earned it," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "He worked hard. We're really pleased and it's a good result." Before 2006, Ross had just a .217 lifetime average with 19 homers and 50 RBIs since 2002 with three different clubs. He had never played more than 70 games or hit more than 10 homers during a season. "It's nice," said Ross, who also threw out 45 percent of basestealers. "It'll be a different feel than I've ever had before. Usually, I'm going to Spring Training battling for a job. It's nice to know I'll be able to go down there preparing to win." Reached on Monday afternoon, Ross was in Cincinnati after taking his physical. He was with his wife, Hyla, doing some house hunting and picking out new window blinds -- some of the perks that come with newfound stability. The couple, who are Tallahassee, Fla., residents, are expecting their first baby, a daughter, on Feb. 23. "This couldn't have come at a better time," Ross said with a laugh of his new deal. Acquired mainly for his defensive abilities, Ross came to the Reds in March near the end of Spring Training in a trade from the Padres for Minor League pitcher Bobby Basham. He began the season mainly as pitcher Bronson Arroyo's personal catcher and was behind Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin on the depth chart. That didn't take long to change. LaRue injured his knee soon after Ross' arrival and began the season on the disabled list. The veteran, then the longest tenured Reds player, never got going offensively. Meanwhile, Ross surprised everyone with his bat. He hit .311 before the All-Star break and by early June, had taken over regular catching duties.
"You feel like you're a good player and have that confidence," Ross explained. "But for someone else to think you're good and give you a contract that shows they have faith and trust in you, it's validation of everything you've worked hard for and the time and effort you've put in as a player."Preliminary talks between Ross' agents and Krivsky began as early as October. Negotiations accelerated within the past couple of weeks. Wednesday is the deadline for arbitration-eligible players to exchange figures with their clubs. "When you get to that point, it's a whole different mode of negotiations," Ross said. "It's nice to not have that hanging over your head. It's over and done before I go to Spring Training. I haven't been through the process before and I didn't want to go through it." Ross will earn $1.6 million in 2007 and $2.52 million in 2008. His 2009 option can be bought out for $375,000. Last season, Ross made $500,000. Pitchers Aaron Harang and Kyle Lohse are the Reds' two remaining arbitration cases pending. Krivsky said negotiations have been ongoing with both players' agents. Wilson signed: The Reds also announced that right-handed pitcher Paul Wilson was signed to a Minor League contract and invited to Spring Training. Wilson, who has been rehabilitating from right shoulder surgery, has not pitched in the Majors for Cincinnati since June, 2005. The 33-year-old Wilson spent all of last season on the disabled list and attempting some rehab starts in the Minors. Setbacks prevented him from coming back. After the Reds shut him down for the year late in the summer, Krivsky gave Wilson a commitment he would be invited to Major League camp. "We're hopeful everything works out and there's a happy ending to this story," Krivsky said. Krivsky has also been in talks with the agents for relievers Eddie Guardado and Kent Mercker. Both pitchers are attempting to return from major elbow surgery and wouldn't be ready for Opening Day.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.