The Red Sox would like nothing more than for Ross, who hit five home runs in the 2010 postseason, to make an encore appearance at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after signing the 31-year-old outfielder Monday night to a one-year, $3 million deal with bonuses based on plate appearances, multiple sources said.
Boston had maintained an interest in Ross throughout the signing season, but pounced after his asking price dropped significantly -- initially, he was seeking a three-year deal -- and after left fielder Carl Crawford underwent surgery last week to address an arthritic condition in his left wrist.
They also acted after trading infielder Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary to the Colorado Rockies, which freed up the money they privately said they needed to have before making additional upgrades.
Ross’s signing does not mean the Sox have abandoned their pursuit of adding another starting pitcher. They remain in discussions with free agent Roy Oswalt, though a team source cautioned they are exploring other options as well. Barring a trade for someone like White Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd, there does not appear to be another option as attractive as Oswalt, who could prove a bonanza if he stays healthy.
The Sox also are thin at shortstop after dealing Scutaro, with veterans Nick Punto and Mike Aviles and rookie Jose Iglesias their only options at this time. The Sox have indicated they do not want to rush the 22-year-old Iglesias, who has fewer than 700 professional at-bats, and with neither Punto and Aviles the answer on an everyday basis, the Sox are expected to seek more help there. Punto is the better glove of the two, Aviles a better bat.
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much shortstop help available. Even the soon-to-be 45-year-olds have signed, Omar Vizquel coming to terms Monday with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Arizona Diamondbacks have two capable backups behind Stephen Drew in Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald, but the D-Backs still have questions about Drew’s recovery from a badly fractured ankle.
For the record, one-time Red Sox prospect David Eckstein, who didn’t play at all last season, has not officially retired, his agent Ryan Gleichowski wrote in an e-mail Monday, but the Sox have not reached out.
[And yes, for what it’s worth, Eckstein has been to the White House too, at least a couple of times, with the Angels and the Cardinals after they won the World Series. Eckstein presented George Bush a Cardinals jersey in 2007, five years after he’d attended a small dinner party with the president, taking his mom along for company.]
Even before Crawford’s injury, the Sox had maintained a healthy interest in Ross, who has hit left-handed pitchers well, with a career .912 OPS, though his 2011 performance (.336 OBP/.362 SLG/.698 OPS) did not approach that number.
Ross should be given every chance to leap ahead of Darnell McDonald in a potential platoon in right field, and will come to camp hoping to convince Bobby Valentine that he should play every day ahead of Ryan Sweeney. But with Crawford uncertain to be ready when the regular season begins, Ross gives the Sox much-needed protection.
He had a dream October for the Giants after coming to San Francisco, his fifth big-league team, in a trading-deadline deal from the Florida Marlins. He was MVP of the Giants’ NLCS victory over the Phillies after hitting two home runs off Roy Halladay in Game 1 and (future teammate?) Oswalt in Game 2. In the prior division series, against the Braves, he drove in the winning run in two of the Giants’ three wins. He also homered off Colby Lewis of the Rangers in the World Series.