One of the problems with figuring out who is potentially signing anywhere is communication. Sometimes, rumors come from unnamed sources, and they often conflict with each other when coming from another reporter. It all depends on who heard what, from who, and when they heard it -- what might have been true a week before isn't necessarily still true by the time it's reported.
That isn't an issue with Cody Ross, though, as the outfielder, on the diary he keeps at ESPN Boston, avoids all the middlemen to come out and say that he and Boston have begun talking about a new contract already:
I'm a free agent at the end of this season. There are talks going on with the Red Sox. We're in the beginning stages of talking. Hopefully we can get something done. Obviously, I want to come back here and be a part of this team. I think this will be a really good team for a long time. I think they'll make some really good moves. The number one thing for me is winning. I want to win. At this point in my career, there is nothing that is going to satisfy me in baseball more than winning. Money is good, yes, but that only goes so far. I've seen a lot of people make a lot of money and never win or not play well and not be happy. Winning is the number one thing for me.
The Red Sox have the financial resources to give him what money he will want, and, if Ross already thinks they can win with the right moves (and hey, some health), then they should be a top choice, if not his preferred destination, for 2013. We'll see, of course, but it's good to see that the Red Sox have this exclusive negotiating window with someone who very much would like to be back.
The comparison that is continually thrown out there is Josh Willingham, who signed with the Twins for three years at $21 million. That's a low enough total for Ross that, if it turns out there's no room for him on the roster, he could be moved, or held on to as expensive, but financially tolerable, depth. It would take a whole lot of things going write for Boston for Ross to be pushed out of the picture, but with Jackie Bradley at Double-A with a potential 2014 ETA, and Bryce Brentz already at Triple-A, there's a viable situation where Ross isn't needed as a starter by 2015, if not earlier. (Assuming that Jacoby Ellsbury remains a Red Sox past 2013, anyway.) Getting Ross for $7 million a year allows them a lot of flexibility going forward, as he can stay, go, be used as depth, or start, and it can all work within the realm of Boston's budget, even if it remains somewhat reduced from recent years.
Of course, Ross has to sign first, and it's not clear if the plan is for one year, two, three, or whatever. That's the kind of information we'll likely have to wait until the off-season to find out.