The Texas Rangers have signed former Atlanta Braves outfielder Robbie Grossman to a one-year contract worth two million, with the chance to earn up to 3 million in incentives. General manager Chris Young went into the off-season saying he wanted to address the starting rotation, the bullpen, and sign a bat. The Rangers certainly addressed pitching.
They continued to chase a bat by going after Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto. Both players accepted multi-year deals elsewhere. The Rangers, it appears, have been looking for someone to sign just a one-year contract. Signing Grossman to a one-year contract tells me they feel that Aaron Zavala, Evan Carter, or Dustin Harris will be ready to compete for the job by 2024. I think before we go any further we need to answer three questions. First, who is Robbie Grossman? Second, what role will he fill? Finally, what does this mean for the left field competition going forward?
Robbie Grossman is a 33-year-old switch-hitting outfielder that was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has played 10 seasons for five different organizations: Astros, Twins, A's, Tigers, and Braves. His best season was 2021 for the Detroit Tigers. He had 23 home runs, played in 156 games, stole 20 bases, 98 walks, and had a .772 on-base plus slugging(OPS). He did not have as good a season in 2022.
He played in 83 games for the Tigers before being traded at the deadline to the Atlanta Braves. He missed time in late May and early June with a neck sprain. He came back and hit his first home run of the season on June 18th against the Texas Rangers and then followed it up with another one the next day against the Rangers as well. Grossman did have more success with the Braves, who fixed his swing after the trade from Detroit. This is what he said to The Athletic's David Sampson last August:
"The first day when I got here, they kind of set me down and it was like, 'Here's the difference we saw in your swings from this year and the previous two years. This is what we think you should do.' And we just got to work, hit the ground running with it, and I feel a lot more normal now"- Robbie Grossman
He ended up playing 46 games for the Braves. He had a .217 batting average with Atlanta, and hit 5 home runs, had a .370 slugging percentage, and had 30 hits in his 46 games played. He also increased his batting average from both sides of the plate. He had a .364 batting average against left-handers and a .204 batting average against right-handers. The Rangers are signing Grossman with the hope that he is the guy who played for the Braves and not the one who struggled in his time in Detroit.
Robbie Grossman will report to camp likely this weekend and take part in workouts starting next week. He is signing a major league contract and so the expectation is that he will be on the roster. He is a switch-hitter that excels in hitting off of left-handed pitchers. That means he will bat against pitchers like Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales, Framber Valdez, and other left-handers throughout the majors. He will probably play against some right-handers as well. He dominates left-handers.
Even in a bad year in 2022 he still hit .320 against left-handers with a .443 slugging percentage. That is a massive increase from his .143 batting average against right-handers and the .256 slugging percentage that he had in 2022. He is a decent defensive outfielder as well. He is not as good as Leody or Adolis, but he also is not a negative in left field. He had a .988 fielding percentage between playing left and right field last season.
Finally, what does this mean for the left-field competition? It means that unless he gets hurt or plays very poorly Robbie Grossman is probably on the team playing left field. He will likely not play as often against right-handers. That does open the door for someone like Josh Smith, Brad Miller, Yoshi Tsutsugo, or Travis Jankowski to claim a spot splitting time with Grossman. It will make it more difficult for Ezequiel Duran or Jackson Frazier to make the team. I think Bubba Thompson with his speed and defense will make the team.
Thompson can be used in a variety of roles such as pinch-runner, late-inning defensive replacement, or as pinch-hitter. I am sure Bochy would find a way to get him some starts as well when giving Leody Tavares or Adolis Garcia the day off. I will say signing Grossman does feel like they are potentially signing Kole Calhoun 2.0. I do hope that if Grossman plays as poorly as Calhoun did that the Rangers cut the cord sooner rather than holding onto him for the entire season. If the Rangers can put him in positions to succeed, he can stay healthy, and continue the work he did in Atlanta then this could be a very good signing. If not then at least he gave the team time to allow Zavala, Harris, and Carter to develop before calling them up.