With only around $38 million in payroll commitments for 2013 that count towards the luxury tax threshold, the Boston Red Sox have money to spend in their quest to build a contender for next season and beyond. Cody Ross, who will be 32 in December, is one potential free agent member of the 2012 club who general manager Ben Cherington wants to bring back.
According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, contract talks between Ross and the Red Sox have “gained momentum,” a source said. Ross can hit the free agent market five days after the end of the World Series, but he has expressed interest in returning to Boston and the Red Sox would like to retain the versatile outfielder.
Ross can play all three outfield spots, though he is best suited in left field or right field. Initially, the Red Sox planned to platoon the right-handed hitting Ross and the left-handed hitting Ryan Sweeney in right field while playing Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and Carl Crawford in left field for the 2012 season. Injuries to Crawford in spring training and Ellsbury in April changed that plan.
Though the Red Sox suffered to a 69-93 record and a last place finish in the American League East and endured a myriad of injuries, Ross was one of the team’s few bright spots. He hit .267 with 22 home runs, 81 RBI and a .807 OPS in 528 plate appearances.
Ross – who was on a one-year, $3 million deal for the 2012 season – is seeing and wuill likely get a multi-year offer from the Red Sox and other teams if he opts for free agency. Ross is best suited as a platoon player, and his return to the Red Sox is important since the club is lacking right-handed power.
Versus left-handed pitching, Ross posted a .295 average and a 1.010 OPS. he batted .298 with a .921 OPS at Fenway Park.
Top outfield prospect Bryce Brentz, a power hitter who projects as a right fielder in the majors with his strong throwing arm, will likely open the 2013 campaign at Triple-A Pawtucket. He is the lone top outfield prospect in the system who hits from the right side and is almost Major League ready.
For the long term, the Red Sox could move uber prospect Xander Bogaerts, who projects as a middle of the order bat in the majors, from shortstop to left field. The 20-year-old Bogaerts is a right-handed hitter. Still promising outfielder Ryan Kalish and top outfield prospect Jackie Bradley are left-handed hitters.
As for 2013, for the Red Sox to contend they will need more help from the right side of the plate beyond Dustin Pedroia and perhaps catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Even if Ross returns to Boston, Cherington will likely pursue more right-handed bats.