BOSTON -- With David Ortiz back in Boston, the next priority is re-signing Cody Ross.
Boston's window to exclusively negotiate with Ross has come and gone, allowing the outfielder to test free agency. Despite the differences, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is keeping the dialogue open with Ross' agent."We've had a number of conversations," Cherington said. "Obviously we're into free agency now. We didn't sign him before that started. The door will remain open, and we'll continue to talk, but once we're in free agency, he's got opportunities to talk to other teams, and we fully expect him to do that."Ross is reportedly eyeing a contract similar to that of Josh Willingham's three-year, $21 million deal from last offseason. The Red Sox outfielder feels it's fair compensation after he delivered 22 home runs and 81 RBIs in 130 games.When Willingham inked the deal, he was one year older than Ross –– who is currently 31 years old. But after playing on a one-year, $3 million deal in 2012, Ross is hoping for more financial security.And Cherington understands the outfielder's perspective since he's coming off a bounce back season."Going back to last fall when I first talked to Cody about coming here, the goal obviously was to do well as a team," Cherington said. "But part of the goal was to put him in a better position. I felt it could put him in a better position by coming here and performing in this ballpark. The good news is that it did."The bad news, however, is that Ross' sudden rise could cost the Red Sox. The team declined to offer him a qualifying offer of $13.3 million for next season, which would prevent them from receiving a draft pick if Ross signs elsewhere.While Cherington believes in Ross' abilities to maintain his momentum -- in a pull-happy stadium like Fenway Park -- the general manager is angling to re-sign him at the right price. If not, he is prepared to pursue other options. "He's in a good position now," Cherington said. "It makes it tougher to sign him. We'll keep the door open. We'll keep talking. At the same time, we've got to consider alternatives, too."Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.