Next week at this time, the annual baseball Winter Meetings will be underway, and you can be sure that Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski and Co. will be busy.
That isn’t to say the Red Sox need a ton of work. They finished the year 93-69 and in first place in the American League East. But there were many times throughout the course of the season where it was obvious they could be better in some spots, whether it be starting pitching, the bullpen, or various positions on the field.
Oh, and they didn’t win a single postseason game.
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Still, Red Sox fans are lucky that their team isn’t working with a tight budget. They also have plenty of young talent and a guy in Dombrowski willing to part with them for the right price.
So who might the Sox be interested in as spending season gets underway?
Edwin Encarnacion is a name that has been linked to the Red Sox this offseason, and for good reason. The Sox are losing arguably their most important hitter, David Ortiz, to retirement. They won’t be able to replace what Ortiz means as a leader, but they can recover lots of the MVP-level numbers they’ll lose by adding Encarnacion to the team. The soon-to-be 34-year-old Encarnacion finished tied with Ortiz for an AL-leading 127 RBI, and tied for third in the AL with 42 home runs last season. He’s no one-season wonder either, as he’s been named to three All-Star teams and has driven in at least 98 runs in each of the last five seasons. The surprisingly strong play at first base by Hanley Ramirez wouldallow the Sox to work both players in at DH and first base next season. Encarnacion is one of the hottest names on the market, and we know the Sox love to make a splash – for better or worse.
The Red Sox would be smart to add another strong starting pitcher. The problem? The open market for starting pitching this offseason is extremely weak. If Boston wanted to go the free agent route, it could consider old friend Rich Hill, who has thrived since his comeback with the Sox late in 2015. A better idea might be the trade route. There’s been much talk surrounding what the White Sox will do with Chris Sale if they decide to blow it up. Sale is one of the best in the majors. But his teammate, Jose Quintana, should be the pitcher the Sox target. Quintana, who will be 28 next season, is under contract for four more years at an average of just over $9 million a season. That’s a steal. He put together the best season of his career in 2016, going to his first All-Star game and finishing 13-12 with a career-best 3.20 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Boston has the assets to get it done if the White Sox are looking to unload.
The Cleveland Indians showed us how important a strong bullpen is. The Red Sox thought they had one going into 2016, but injuries took an early toll. Carson Smith lasted just three games before he was lost for the season. He’ll return sometime in 2017 and bring a 2.31 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with him, but who else? Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Brad Ziegler are all free agents. Re-signing Ziegler should be a priority, as Boston needs a dependable set-up man. Ziegler proved to be just that with the Sox, finishing with a 1.52 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, and has history as a closer too if the need arises. Unlike starting pitching, there are plenty of strong relievers available this offseason.