The Red Sox are plotting a more patient and adaptable offseason than they undertook last year, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. But that’s not to say that the club won’t ultimately push to add veteran pieces at areas of need — particularly, the DH slot and the back of the bullpen.
Boston “badly” wants to sign outfielder/DH Carlos Beltran, a source tells ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber. That certainly seems to elevate the team’s previously reported interested in the veteran switch-hitter. Lauber does note that whether Beltran ends up at Fenway could depend upon whether he’s looking for multiple years, so it seems that the club isn’t quite in at all costs, but it’s clear at this point that he’s a real target.
Notably, because he wasn’t eligible to receive a qualifying offer, the Red Sox would not be required to part with a draft pick to sign Beltran. He ran up a .295/.337/.513 batting line in his age-39 season, so it seems there’s still gas left in the tank, and Boston is evidently interested in pursuing an option that won’t require a significant, multi-year commitment.
Edwin Encarnacion has previously been tied to the Red Sox, but it has never quite been apparent just how interested the club is in pursuing a player who is arguably the best hitter available this winter in free agency. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets that a four or five-year deal for him “seems unlikely.”
Though there’s plainly a match on paper, the team’s own assessment of Encarnacion’s long-term outlook and its own future balance sheets certainly could suggest a different approach. Indeed, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported recently, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombroski spoke of factoring in “affordability,” the desire not to tie up the DH slot for too long, and the presence of internal options (now and in the future) that could fill the role.
There are other names to consider, too. Abraham suggests that Kendrys Morales could be a fit, and indeed we’ve heard that connection recently as well. Like Beltran, Morales is a switch hitter, though at 33 years of age he figures to command multiple years. Matt Holliday might also represent a match, Abraham notes. Like Beltran, he’s still capable of spending some time in the outfield, which aids with lineup flexibility. But Holliday’s offensive output dipped last year — his age-36 campaign — and he missed a major chunk of the second half with a broken thumb after already experiencing an injury-limited 2015.
Turning to the bullpen, Dombrowski labeled a set-up man a priority for his organization. “We have some guys that we really like in our pen. None of them have really pitched the eighth inning,” Dombrowski said. “They probably have the skills and abilities to do it, but that would probably be first and foremost a thing of focus for us.”
While the team is optimistic that Carson Smith will return to be a factor in 2017, Dombrowski says that he won’t count on him being available for the first few months, as Britton reports. That keeps a focus on finding a primary set-up option, which Dombrowski saying the club is likely “looking for one guy at this point,” as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. It seems unlikely that veteran Red Sox free agents Koji Uehara or Brad Ziegler will be that guy, Bradford notes, with Dombrowski suggesting tepid interest in both players.
Meanwhile, the veteran executive strongly suggested that southpaw Fernando Abad will be tendered a contract, which suggests that the club won’t have need for another lefty. Though the veteran struggled at times after his mid-season trade to Boston, he represents a solid value at MLBTR’s projected $2MM arbitration salary point.
It doesn’t seem that there’s likely to be much change in the rotation, either, with the team expending to retain its half-dozen starting options rather than seeking to add or deal from that depth. “You’re always open to anything, but we’re really looking at bringing all six to spring training at this time,” said Dombrowski.
Finally, while the catching situation appears to have some uncertainty, it doesn’t seem that the Red Sox are targeting any modifications there at the moment. The market doesn’t admit of many solutions anyway, and Boston does have options. As Lauber reports, Dombrowski says that Sandy Leon will enter the spring as the presumptive regular behind the dish. Presumably, Christian Vazquez is in line for reserve duties, though Dombrowski added that the organization still sees Blake Swihart as a catcher — despite the fact that he played in the outfield for a large chunk of 2016.