It was a quiet weekend for the Red Sox, but not for their American League competition, as the Astros and Yankees snapped up Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday respectively. With the two veteran bats off the market, the Red Sox find their options for a David Ortiz replacement dramatically reduced.
Of the two, Beltran is the bigger news for the Red Sox. While some fans were firmly on board the Matt Holliday bandwagon, there was never any real indication that the Sox were terribly interested in the long-time Cardinals outfielder. While they had been in contact with Holliday’s agent late in the game, Beltran was always clearly their 1-A at DH.
Just because they can no longer have their first choice, however, don’t expect the Red Sox to make a sudden heavy push into the Edwin Encarnacion market. While it is possible that the Sox legitimately saw Encarnacion as their second-best option, more realistically there’s just too huge a gap between his market and that of Beltran. If the Red Sox wanted Beltran above all, it should be taken as a signal that they weren’t interested in tying themselves down long-term for the sake of adding a DH.
While the options are certainly reduced with those two off the market, they are not entirely gone, even ignoring Encarnacion. At this point it’s safe to say that Jose Bautista’s market will not develop as he would have hoped, though in all likelihood the Red Sox won’t be interested in surrendering the draft pick it will take to sign the veteran outfielder (that rule is still in its old form for the rest of the offseason).
Jon Heyman claims that Pedro Alvarez is in the mix, though it’s worth noting that at no point does he cite any sources, leaving us with no real guarantee this is anything more than speculation. Alvarez would be an interesting option in a platoon situation with Chris Young, though that would leave the Red Sox vulnerable to struggles from Andrew Benintendi and/or Jackie Bradley Jr. against lefties. It’s also worth noting that Alvarez is a Boras client, which could leave his demands unreasonable, even with all of his warts.
The surprise addition of Chris Carter to the market helps keep the situation from being too dire even with two options gone. He’s as Three True Outcomes as it gets these days, for both better and worse, but is probably one of the lower-maintenance options with one of the highest chances to at least be above league average. Not a completely glowing review for a DH, but still a positive addition.
Old friend Mike Napoli could also still make a return to Boston in 2017, though it’s worth noting that even in what was seen as a renaissance year for him with 34 homers on an Indians team that made it all the way to the World Series, his batting line still was only good for a 104 OPS+, which is basically at the low end of what Chris Carter and Pedro Alvarez have done on a year-to-year basis, and they don’t carry Napoli’s age concerns.
There’s also the flashier trade scenarios involving players like Joey Votto or Miguel Cabrera, but that’s more in the realm of fantasy baseball than anything real.
Still, even just in the realms of realism, the Red Sox do have options left to them. None of them are perfect, but none were perfect to begin with, so that’s not really much of a hit. I’d say they have to get a move-on here, but...it’s not entirely clear that’s true. These players just don’t have much in the way of job prospects. National League teams can generally only offer those without much in the way of defense a bench role, and there’s only so many American League teams with a need at DH. The Red Sox may not end up with their 1-A choice at DH, but there’s probably not a huge difference in the expected outcome for their 1-A and their 3-B. It might be frustrating to watch from the outside, but if the Red Sox’ options are disappearing, there’s still enough to choose from that it’s not even really time to worry yet.