Sox should sign Cody Ross ... right?

A big hit at Fenway Park, Cody Ross celebrates one of his own: a walk-off home run July 19. Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

BOSTON -- Even though free-agent outfielder Cody Ross is reportedly seeking a three-year contract, if the Boston Red Sox were to offer him slightly less -- say, in the range of two years and $16 million -- it could be a deal that works best for both sides.

Ross, 31, proved to be a quality asset to the Red Sox both on and off the field in 2012. He has said he would like to return to Boston. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has admitted as much and both sides have been talking since the end of last season.

Ross fits well in Boston. In 69 games at Fenway Park, he has a .292 average with 13 homers and 49 RBIs. Defensively he's solid, too. More importantly, he's well-respected in the clubhouse, especially among Red Sox veterans Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.

Cherington is looking to add a pair of outfielder acquisitions this offseason. Now that Torii Hunter has signed with the Detroit Tigers for a two-year deal worth $26 million, and the Toronto Blue Jays inked Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal worth $16 million, Ross should be next.

If he wants to re-sign with Boston, then now is the time. With the core group the Red Sox have in place, including a new manager in John Farrell, Boston could be positioned to compete in the AL East in 2013 and beyond.

It doesn't matter what the Blue Jays now have on paper, or the Yankees, or the Orioles or Rays. The Red Sox have the artillery to compete in 2013. Cherington needs to fill some holes before spring training and Ross should be one of them.

He will produce. He will be a solid guy in the clubhouse. He's already familiar with the Boston market and it should be an easy fit.

Sure, there are other options for the Red Sox. Free agent Josh Hamilton is available but he's seeking a major payday, and even though the Red Sox have already discussed the possibility, it's unlikely they'll spend the money for his services.

There are others, too. Nick Swisher, who has been a fan favorite and productive for the New York Yankees for the past four seasons, is also looking for a multiyear deal and could also fit in Boston. But the Red Sox would be better off signing Ross to play right field and hope prospect Ryan Kalish is healthy and productive in left field.

The Red Sox should have extended Ross before the 2012 season ended. With the way the outfield free-agent market appears to be shaping out now, Cherington should sign Ross and have one less thing on the club's to-do list to worry about.

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