LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Either at the Winter Meetings this coming week or sometime this winter, the Red Sox need to obtain a power hitter, one who has a leadership component.
Last offseason, we all know they should have secured Edwin Encarnacion, who wound up signing with the Indians for a reasonable three years at $60 million (and a team option for $20 million in 2020).
Even David Ortiz recommended it.
That pressure seems greater now with the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, subject to his approval. The Yankees’ lineup was already more powerful and productive than the Red Sox’. Now it’s off the charts.
But short of Ortiz ending his retirement and returning to the middle of the order, the Red Sox have to come away with something significant. Either it’s a deal with the White Sox for Jose Abreu (which doesn’t look optimistic), or a deal for Khris Davis (whom the Athletics aren’t willing to trade right now), or a deal for meaty Marlins first baseman Justin Bour, or the signing of a free agent such as J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, or Mike Moustakas.
If they can’t do it, the Red Sox might as well bring back Mitch Moreland, because nobody except the aforementioned would be an upgrade.
The Red Sox need to be spending a lot of time with agent Scott Boras, if they’re not already. Boras holds the key to their fortunes, and those fortunes will cost a small fortune because he’s got both Martinez and Hosmer to peddle. But as Boras has indicated at other times when teams have gone after one high-priced player and then stopped short to keep costs down, once you’re in, you’ve got to be in all the way.
Boras has made the case the Red Sox could use both Hosmer and Martinez, given that Hanley Ramirez could be heading into a free agent year (even though there’s a vesting option involved). Don’t know if the Red Sox would go that far, but it’s an interesting thought.
Hosmer and Martinez certainly would add that leadership quality that has been missing since Ortiz left.
Last season, at a time when a record number of home runs were being hit, the Red Sox were near the bottom. New Sox manager, and former Astros bench coach, Alex Cora knows this better than anyone, because Houston was second in home runs to the Yankees in 2017.
So, if you have David Price, a $30 million pitcher, returning, and Chris Sale, who will be a $30 million pitcher in two years, then you’re probably going to have to add a $30 million slugger.
And while Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, and Matt Adams might be nice second-tier hitters, they’re not of the caliber of the aforementioned sluggers.
Martinez seems like the best fit. Abreu is the second-best option because he’s a consistent 30/100 guy. Abreu’s going to start making some big dollars this season through arbitration, something around $18 million, and likely $20 million the year after.
Heading into the Winter Meetings, the Red Sox and White Sox have talked enough to know whether there’s a match. And while there’s no reason to end those talks, there hasn’t been enough to get either side excited that a deal could be forthcoming.
The White Sox did a nice job obtaining a few of the Red Sox’ top prospects in the Sale deal, and the price Boston paid was certainly worth it, even though Yoan Moncada may become an All-Star and Michael Kopech could hit the big leagues in 2018 and be a very good power pitcher.
The White Sox won’t let Abreu go cheaply, according to team sources. In fact, they may not let him go at all. Just as they held out for top prospects in the Sale deal, as well as the Adam Eaton deal with the Nationals, they’re going to demand a lot for their best hitter, one of the few consistent power hitters in the game.
An interesting name is Moustakas, another Boras client. The Red Sox have said they see Rafael Devers as their long-term third baseman, but the youngster had his challenges in the field last season. If the Red Sox changed their mind, they could move him to first base. This would be seen as a last-ditch move if other things failed.
Moustakas hit 38 homers last season while playing half of his games at pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium, where he hit only 14 of his home runs. He’s also a very good defensive third baseman, so he would improve the metrics on the left side of the infield.
Moustakas is also one of the youngest free agents at 29, a year older than former Royals teammate Hosmer. Hosmer isn’t a home run hitter per se, but his power is improving, and he could also benefit from leaving the large dimensions in Kansas City. He could walk right into the Red Sox’ first base job and likely be a very effective player, in the mode of Adrian Gonzalez, who had success hitting at Fenway.
Whomever the Red Sox get has to be a sure thing. They can’t just hope Morrison repeats his one-year wonder (38 homers after hitting a combined 42 in his previous three seasons), or that Adams will hit a lot homers if he gets 500 at-bats, rather than the 367 he got in St. Louis and Atlanta last season. Santana, meanwhile, is a nice player, but he doesn’t hit a lot of home runs.
The Red Sox could commit to a youngster such as Sam Travis or Michael Chavis, but again, you’re taking a chance he can get the job done. But if he can’t, then what?
There are “take a chance” guys with power, including free agents Mark Reynolds and Jose Bautista. There are surer things, such as Jay Bruce and Carlos Gonzalez. There are trade possibilities, such as the Reds’ Adam Duvall. There are tough guys to get, such as the Padres’ Wil Myers, who turns 27 Sunday, who signed a six-year, $83 million deal before last season. And there are “leap of faith” guys, such as the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson and the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber, who hit 30 homers last season but batted only .211.
What else do the Red Sox need beyond a slugger? They may try to re-sign Addison Reed or a reasonable facsimile. They may try to re-sign Eduardo Nunez with Dustin Pedroia out at least through May. They may seek a deal for Brock Holt with Blake Swihart now their utility guy.
Would they deal Rick Porcello, who had a subpar 2017 season, if some pitching-starved team asked?
This is a team coming off consecutive 93-win seasons and a pair of American League East titles. They don’t need much, but their one major need is glaring, and they don’t want to make the same mistake for a second consecutive year.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.