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Free Agent Lookback: Cody Ross

Cody Ross gave the Red Sox some fun in 2012, a season in which fun was hard to find.

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Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The 2012 Boston Red Sox were not a very good team. Fresh off the collapse of 2011, this was the team that Bobby Valentine helmed for a year before being fired. The Red Sox went just 69-93 and finished in last place in the American League East for the first time since 1992 and the first time ever under the five-team-per-division alignment.

However, mixed into that horrific season were the bones of previous and future title teams as well as a few fun guys who made the team more watchable than you might think. One of those guys was outfielder Cody Ross.

Ross wasn’t a marquee free agent when he joined the Red Sox, agreeing to a one-year deal exactly 10 years from today worth $3 million for his age-31 season, but he seemed like a solid addition before he even played his first game for the team.

A fourth-round pick in the 1999 MLB Draft, Ross made his major-league debut in 2003 with the Detroit Tigers. He would go on to play for four other teams after that before joining the Red Sox in January of 2012. Quick stints with the Tigers, Dodgers and Reds didn’t bear much fruit for the right-handed outfielder, but he finally caught on as a regular with the Florida Marlins, who scooped him off the scrap heap from Cincinnati in May of 2006.

Through 91 games with the Marlins that season, Ross didn’t do much to improve his standing, slashing just .212/.284/.396 for a 76 OPS+. However, he burned bright in 2007, albeit in a very limited part-time role. Over 66 games (197 plate appearances) that year, Ross slashed .335/.411/.653 with 12 home runs and a 169 wRC+. Ross would stick in Florida for most of the next three seasons and although he never reached those heights from 2007 regularly, he was a solid outfielder with pop, amassing 9.4 bWAR across parts of five campaigns with the Marlins.

Despite providing relatively solid production, Ross mostly hovered around the 100 wRC+ mark in Florida, meaning he wasn’t a must-keep player, which is what led the San Francisco Giants to get him through waivers in 2010 to help during the stretch run. Ross did more than lend a hand, posting a 1.076 OPS with five home runs across 59 plate appearances during the Giants’ run to a World Series title.

Ross, who also had a 122 OPS+ in the regular season with the Giants, returned to San Francisco for the 2011 season, but only on a one-year deal. He came back down to earth a bit in that second year, producing a 107 wRC+ and just 0.7 fWAR in 121 games.

Although Ross wasn’t as good in 2011 as he was in 2010 with the Giants, the Red Sox saw enough in him to offer him a contract. It made sense. Ross was a big-swinging right-hander who would likely make great use of the Green Monster. The rationale played out perfectly in 2012, as Ross had one of the best seasons of his career. He posted a 114 wRC+, smashed 22 home runs and slashed .267/.326/.481. Those might not be All-Star numbers, but they equated to the second-highest fWAR total for Ross in a season (2.7), only falling short of his mark of 3.5 in 2008.

Of course, Ross’ statistical profile doesn’t tell the whole story. He was a genuinely fun player to watch because of his joyous persona, his high energy on the field and his ability to absolutely crush baseballs. He was also an early adopter of the bat-flip movement, making some of his home runs even more momentous. Occasionally he even flashed some of that clutch magic he displayed in San Francisco, albeit in games with much lower stakes.

Entering the 2013 offseason, Ross, who had lived on a year-to-year basis contract-wise his whole career, capitalized on his strong year in Boston, as the Arizona Diamondbacks gave him a three-year deal worth $26 million. It was too bad to see Ross go, as he really was one of the few bright spots in a terrible season for the Red Sox in 2012. However, it’s tough to get too upset since they won the World Series less than a year after Ross left.

In Arizona, Ross was okay in his first season, but injuries and inconsistent play ultimately led to a quiet end of his career. He played in only 177 games and had a 93 OPS+ across two seasons for the Diamondbacks before being cut with a year still left on his contract. After Arizona, Ross got a brief shot with the Oakland A’s in 2015 but was off the team by early May. He has never played in a MLB game since.

All things considered, Ross still managed to have a pretty successful MLB career. He played in parts of 12 MLB seasons, hit 132 home runs and finished as an above average hitter for his career (103 wRC+). Ross’ efforts with the Red Sox made up only a small part of his overall body of work, but even though he may be remembered more for his playoff home runs with the Giants and his tenure with the Marlins, his one year in Boston was still a pretty fun ride.