The Boston Red Sox would be the clear favorite in 2017 if they can lure Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, or both, from the Toronto Blue Jays. Yet, is that even realistic?
There’s trouble brewing on top of Mount Crushmore in Toronto, as the Blue Jays have two of their biggest hitters in franchise history in their contract years. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will enter their final years of their contracts in the 2016 season. Considering soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer David Ortiz is also retiring at the end of that season, many baseball people are wondering if one of these to Dominican players will want to leave Toronto for Boston and add more power, as another Dominican makes his exit.
Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald stated that “Encarnacion already has directed agent Paul Kinzer to suspend contract talks with the Blue Jays if an extension isn’t agreed upon by the end of spring training, according to ESPN.com. It’s also worth noting that Encarnacion is friendly with Ortiz and recently attended his charity golf event in the Dominican Republic.”
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe only needed one sentence to summarize his thoughts: “Doesn’t it feel like Jose Bautista will be a member of the Red Sox at this time next year?”
Both men are righty bats whom have absolutely assaulted opposing pitchers, even before American League MVP Josh Donaldson arrived, making the Blue Jays the most potent offence in the major leagues. The team scored 891 runs, 852 of them batted in. Boston was fourth on the list, but well behind with 706 RBIs.
With Bautista 35 years old and Edwin being 32 years old, the next contract that each of them sign will likely be their last big payday before retiring. And they would deserve it, too.
Bautista earned his sixth All-Star appearance by hitting .250/.377/.536 with 40 home runs and 114 RBIs. He was so clutch that he was walked a league-leading 110 times, just to take the bat out of his hand. A good strategy, as Bautista did that all on his own against the Texas Rangers in the playoffs with the iconic bat flip that sent social media into a frenzy.
Edwin was no slouch, either. He hit .277/.372/.557 with 39 homers and 111 RBIs last season.
However, with all of this praise, there are some realistic issues that need to be addressed.
It’s lovely that both Edwin and Bautista are close to Ortiz, but Big Papi living in Boston is a lot different than him still playing on the team in 2017. Their friendship isn’t exactly going to keep either man cozy as the team travels on the road.
There’s also the problem of already having players at the defensive positions both Blue Jays occupy on their current team. Bautista’s situation may be a bit more realistic than Edwin’s to overcome, though. Bautista plays right field, which is expected to be Mookie Betts‘ position for the foreseeable future. If Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rusney Castillo play to their potential, they could be an All-Star calibre outfield. The Red Sox even have Chris Young on the bench. Nobody is disputing that Bautista’s bat is more valuable than all four men’s bats combined, but they will have their chance to defend their jobs in 2016.
Edwin, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.
He can play first base or fill the designated hitter role. Every other option, whether the outfield or third base, has already been explored with terrible results. It would seem fitting that Ortiz’s departure would clear the way for another Dominican to take over. The problem is that the Red Sox already have one in Hanley Ramirez. His albatross of a contract, his laundry list of injuries, his 31 years of age, and his unproven abilities to play first base make him both an unmovable contract and a detriment to the infield defense. Boston will not want to pay on an investment that sits on the bench, so they will play him as much as they can, whether at first base or the DH spot. If Hanley finds his bat, he will likely move to Ortiz’s role and cancel out Edwin’s chances at hitting in that spot.
And, with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt waiting in the wings with superior defensive skills, Encarnacion’s bat better not take a vacation in 2016 or else there will not be a need for him on the Red Sox the year after.
Red Sox Nation may be salivating at the idea of bringing in Bautista or Encarnacion, but nobody should be holding their collective breaths. The only real relationship that the two men would have on the Red Sox already in 2017 would be David Price, who just made the move from Toronto after building a great rapport with the entire Blue Jays dugout. That bond seems much more realistic to carry any weight with the two men than Ortiz, but even then Price was only with them for a few months. Is that enough time to influence one of these two sluggers to sign a contract that would likely be the last one ever signed in their careers?
Maybe. And, just maybe, Bautista wants to end his career, like Ortiz, as the face of his franchise. Just maybe Encarnacion likes Toronto just enough to stay put. At this point, it’s hard to say. However, if Edwin doesn’t sign a deal before spring training, all bets are off.