On the field, baseball is done for the season. Off it, the hot stove is heating up. The general managers meetings will be held this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., where trade talk usually starts but where deals are rarely consummated.
The Red Sox have one giant need heading into the 2017 season — replacing David Ortiz. Hard to replace the majors’ OPS leader let alone his intangibles.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has said as much in the days and weeks following Ortiz’s final season, which was one of his best in a 20-year career. There are many ways Dombrowski can approach the market, and which route he takes will be very interesting.
If he wants a sure thing, he’ll sign free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion to a multiyear, big-bucks deal. As far as we can see, Encarnacion is more of a sure thing at DH than anyone. Certainly that’s true in the free agent market, but the price will be high.
If Hanley Ramirez is a four-year, $88 million player, for instance, Encarnacion is likely a five-year, $125 million player since he also plays first base.
The Sox would also have to surrender their first-round pick (26th), not necessarily a big sacrifice this season but significant nonetheless.
If Dombrowski was thinking big in a trade he would attempt to replicate a deal he made many years ago when he obtained Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins. He would have to give up a few prospects and take on the massive contract he signed Cabrera to as Tigers general manager. Dombrowski usually thinks big, so a blockbuster deal can’t be ruled out.
He could also think smaller. He could take a chance on Carlos Beltran, a switch-hitting power bat though he is going on 40 years old. Dombrowski tried to deal for him at the trade deadline this past season.
Beltran would not require draft-pick compensation since he was acquired by the Rangers from the Yankees during the season. He would also not require a long commitment, two years tops.
Beltran is certainly a risk. Also a risk is Jose Bautista, who is coming off a subpar campaign because of injury but who showed late in the season he’s still a threat. He may not be the outfielder he used to be, but he can still play out there — certainly left field at Fenway. Bautista would love to hit at Fenway, where he’s been very successful. He’s also a fan of manager John Farrell and third base coach Brian Butterfield from their time together in Toronto. The feeling is mutual.
Other possibilities include Mark Trumbo, Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, Mike Napoli, Kendrys Morales, and Ian Desmond, all free agents who would require draft-pick compensation if their teams make qualifying offers ($17.2 million this season).
In the thinking-big department, Dombrowski may have enough starting pitching, but how could he resist at least exploring a deal for White Sox ace Chris Sale? Dombrowski inquired about the lefthander at the trade deadline but the price was high. That price will be high again, but adding Sale would give the Red Sox a starting rotation that includes David Price, Rick Porcello , Eduardo Rodriguez (unless he was in the deal), Steven Wright, and Clay Buchholz/Drew Pomeranz.
Dombrowski will also be looking for a bullpen piece or two. Don’t discount a possible deal with the Royals for Wade Davis. The Royals picked up his $10 million option and could deal him. The Red Sox have picked up Buchholz’s $13.5 million option and could deal him. Hmm.
Dombrowski will likely explore if there’s anyone out there willing to take on third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The answer will be no, but you’ve got to try, don’t you?
Given the average to below-average free agent pitching market, GMs likely will discuss more trades this winter than in the past. The Rays have available starters, which they could flip for more offense or for prospects to revamp their farm system. Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Jake Odorizzi could all be in play. It doesn’t appear Chris Archer will be made available, but that could change as well.
Contenders such as the Red Sox are always more likely to seek that extra player or two to help put them over the top.
Here’s a look at what the other teams in both leagues might be looking at:
Toronto Blue Jays — Replacing longtime sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista is a priority if either departs. There have been discussions that the Jays’ ownership prefers to keep Encarnacion and would let Bautista go unless he accepts a qualifying offer, which he is unlikely to do. Money saved on one or both could be devoted to acquiring an outfielder. Soon-to-be free agent Josh Reddick gave them a tickle at the trade deadline so he would appear to be on their radar. Yoenis Cespedes is intriguing if they can’t land Encarnacion.
Baltimore Orioles — Dan Duquette has to improve his starting rotation and figure out what to do with Mark Trumbo. It appears Matt Wieters won’t be back, which would mean they’re not offering him the $17.2 million qualifier that they likely will offer to Trumbo. Always thought Bautista would be a good fit for Baltimore. Duquette pulls one out of the hat every year.
New York Yankees — Brian Cashman will try to stick to his youth movement as much as possible, but don’t be surprised if he adds a starter (Rich Hill could be a target) and a middle-of-the-order hitter to make up for the departures of Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira. A Carlos Beltran reunion could be in play. There’s a sentiment that Aroldis Chapman could return as their closer. The Yankees are also open to trading Brian McCann but could keep him and use him as a DH and as a two-days-a-week catcher.
Tampa Bay Rays — We’ve covered the possibility of a starter being traded for a hitter or for prospects. The Rays like to act quickly, so don’t be surprised if they push the envelope at the GM meetings. They really need a catcher. Some believe the Rays could even listen on Evan Longoria.
Cleveland Indians — They don’t have to worry about their starting rotation with Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco returning. They have to make a decision on Mike Napoli if he would accept a reasonable two-year deal, because they love his power and leadership. They have outfielder Michael Brantley returning, which is the equivalent of obtaining a quality hitter, so I don’t anticipate much in the way of obtaining offense unless they need to replace Napoli.
Detroit Tigers — The Tigers are open to listening on high-priced veterans Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Justin Verlander in an effort to get younger and more liquid. This could get interesting, though 10-5 rights, no-trade provisions, and money are all major problems in dealing such players.
Kansas City Royals — The Royals are in an odd place because they don’t want to give up their window of being relevant yet they have players on the verge of free agency who could be traded. Certainly Wade Davis, their fine reliever, is in play and he’ll get a lot of attention. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain, all free agents after next season, could enter trade conversations. But it appears the Royals want one more look out the window.
Chicago White Sox — More than one GM has said that White Sox GM Rick Hahn is open for business on just about his entire roster. That includes Chris Sale and the rest of the rotation, Jose Abreu, third baseman Todd Frazier, and closer David Robertson.
Minnesota Twins — With new management in place, the Twins want to stick to their youth-first movement. But they also appear to be ready to leap into the next phase, which means they need to revamp their pitching staff. Look for the Twins to be interested in lower-priced starting pitchers and bullpen help.
Texas Rangers — The Rangers will look to revamp their bullpen through both free agency and trades, while also keeping an eye on a rotation that could use help. The Rangers must also make a decision on free agent Ian Desmond (they made a qualifying offer), who was a big part of their offense. The Rangers could pick up Derek Holland’s option and deal him.
Seattle Mariners — The Mariners thought they had a playoff team but fell a bit shy. So Jerry Dipoto will look long and hard at the list of free agent starters to determine if Jeremy Hellickson, Ivan Nova, or Rich Hill could help or whether trading for a pitcher makes more sense.
Houston Astros — The Astros always seem like they’re close, but never seem to get there. They may be looking for a big righthanded bat as a DH/first baseman and would have interest in Edwin Encarnacion. They would like to bolster their bullpen and starting rotation and could get into the Chris Sale and Sonny Gray trade market. Outfielder Colby Rasmus is a free agent and it doesn’t appear he’ll be back. Dexter Fowler?
Los Angeles Angels — The Angels have it tough because they have a substandard farm system. Their best pitcher, Garrett Richards, is expected to return from an injury-ruined season to start 2017, but the Halos are losing free agents C.J. Wilson and Jared Weaver. They could use another hitter and toward that end acquired Cameron Maybin from the Tigers last week.
Oakland Athletics — GMs are wondering whether the A’s will now be willing to deal Gray and reliever Sean Doolittle as it appears they’re on an all-out rebuild. They’re a team of unrecognizable players and the A’s have never been shy about dealing.
Washington Nationals — GM Mike Rizzo always has something up his sleeve. The Nationals keep falling a little bit short and Rizzo has to solve the closer situation with Mark Melancon, a free agent. The lineup needs a tweak and Rizzo has to figure out what to do about free agent catcher Wilson Ramos, who had a fabulous year. After Ramos’s major knee surgery, do the Nats try to tempt him with a qualifying offer that they hope he’ll accept?
New York Mets — Yoenis Cespedes remains the biggest uncertainty. Yes, he’s the centerpiece of the lineup, but he’s opting out of the remaining $47.5 million in hopes he’ll land something bigger or that the Mets will sweeten the deal. Outfielder Jay Bruce could be moved, especially if the Mets retain Cespedes. Don’t look for the Mets to do much on the pitching front as they hope their young arms return to good health. Free agent starter Bartolo Colon is likely to return after a very good season.
Miami Marlins — Which way will the Marlins turn after the death of ace Jose Fernandez? Their biggest need will be starting pitching. There isn’t much of it out there. Could they try to deal for pitching by offering some of their offensive talent?
Philadelphia Phillies — Significant decision on whether they should compete to retain Jeremy Hellickson. Is this the time to compete for additional pitching talent now that they have shed Ryan Howard’s enormous contract? Or are they still a year or so away from making that leap?
Atlanta Braves — Still in rebuild mode, the Braves hope to stay competitive next season and likely make their splash a year from now.
Chicago Cubs – What does a World Series champion do? Free agent Aroldis Chapman will be their biggest decision. It would stand to reason that they would make an attempt to keep him. It will be tough replacing the intangibles of David Ross. But not a lot to be done here.
St. Louis Cardinals — Tough year for the Cardinals. They’re likely to hunt for bullpen help and perhaps another hitter who can replace free agents Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss. For a team that’s always had a lot of pitching, another arm wouldn’t be out of the question though they picked up Jaime Garcia’s $12 million option. They have to figure out first base (if they don’t move Matt Carpenter there) and the bullpen.
Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates are always mindful of budget, but they would like to retain starter Ivan Nova, who was a pleasant surprise after he was acquired from the Yankees. The Pirates may be open to dealing Andrew McCutchen after he had a down season, but that’s highly unlikely.
Cincinnati Reds — The Reds continue to be in rebuild mode. There was a lot of discussion in Toronto midseason about the Blue Jays perhaps dealing for Canadian Joey Votto if they parted company with both Bautista and Encarnacion, with the Reds paying some of the enormous contract. But it’s unknown whether the Blue Jays would have enough chips to send back the Reds’ way. The Reds will try to deal shortstop Zack Cosart, with the Mariners being a logical trade partner.
Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers would be open to dealing Ryan Braun if they could get the right return. Braun had a strong season in 2016 and would be a huge cog in the middle of any contender’s lineup. We’ve heard the Dodgers as a possible trade partner a lot, and it doesn’t seem far-fetched. Slugger Chris Carter, who hit 41 homers, is also on the block.
Los Angeles Dodgers — The Dodgers’ big decisions are how hard they try to re-sign free agents Jacob Turner and Rich Hill. Turner had a breakout season at third base, and Hill is one of the best lefties in the game. On a staff that suffered numerous injuries, Hill would appear to be valuable to them.
San Francisco Giants — The Giants always need offense and this offseason is no exception. They need a power bat in the outfield and they also need to replenish their bullpen. Mark Melancon makes a lot of sense here, but they could also deal with the White Sox for David Robertson. Expect Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans to be active.
Colorado Rockies — They have enough offense as usual, but they need help in the rotation and bullpen — also as usual. Look for the Rockies to kick the tires on the best of the free agent pitchers and to perhaps use some of their outfield offense to acquire pitching. It’s been long speculated that Carlos Gonzalez could be traded — this might be the offseason that it happens.
San Diego Padres — Who knows what this troubled franchise will do? Seems as though they’re back in rebuild mode, so expect teams to come after them for starter Tyson Ross. The Padres say they won’t deal Wil Myers, but even he could be in play. Catcher Derek Norris is also trade bait.
Arizona Diamondbacks — Mike Hazen is the new sheriff in town, so expect a Red Sox-like rebuilding approach. It may take a while to get things the way he wants them, but Hazen wants to compete and rebuild at the same time — something he helped do in Boston. He has the horses to build around in pitcher Zack Greinke and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Where is everybody?
Despite its loss in Game 7 to the Cubs, Cleveland had a season to remember in 2016 — coming within a game of winning its first World Series championship since 1948. What many fans won’t have is a keepsake in the form of ticket stubs from a game this season at Progressive Field. The Indians ranked 28th out of 30 teams in attendance, tied for the worst of any World Series squad since 1975. The best and worst since 1975:
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.