Posted on November 8, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Some of the biggest shoes that any MLB team will have to replace this offseason can be found in Boston, where the Red Sox will have to replace David Ortiz following his retirement. In his swan song, Ortiz hit .315 with 38 home runs, producing an OPS of 1.021. That’s a lot of production from one player, and while most would expect them to sign a big-name free agent this offseason to help replace Big Pappi, that may not necessarily be the case.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski addressed the issue Monday at the GM Meetings in Arizona and had some surprising things to say. “I’m not sure if we’re going to do it internally with a lot of the people we have or go outside the organization,” Dombrowski said. “We know we can never replace [Ortiz’s] presence. But we have a lot of guys who can play different positions. We have young guys coming that we like a great deal, so we’ll just kind of have to wait to see what happens there.”
In terms of internal options, it’s conceivable that Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval could both see time as Boston’s DH in 2017. Ramirez played first base in 2016 but isn’t exactly an asset defensively there, so it could make sense to have him get most of his at bats as a DH, perhaps with Travis Shaw splitting time with him at first base. The Red Sox also need to find a role for Sandoval after he missed most of 2016 with a shoulder injury. Putting Sandoval at DH could help him get his career moving in the right direction again, with Brock Holt able to handle third base.
The infield situation could be further complicated by the potential arrival of prospects Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, and Sam Travis. Devers is more than a year away, but Moncada and Travis could both be ready for full-time jobs in the big leagues at some point in 2017, which would force the Red Sox to reshuffle their infield alignment, affecting both Ramirez and Sandoval.
Dombrowski admits that Boston’s collection of young players could have an impact on how they approach free agency this winter. “There are a lot of different factors. One is affordability, but not only that. How long do you want to tie somebody up for that position when we have a lot of young players coming? That’s a very important part of it,” he explains.
The Red Sox also have to think about a potential excess of outfielders, as Chris Young has one more year left on his deal after a productive 2016 season. Boston could fill its outfield with its trio of young players in Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts, which could force them to find time for Young in the DH spot.
Of course, the Red Sox have already been linked to several free agents who could fill the void at DH following Ortiz’s retirement. Carlos Beltran, who could be a full-time DH and make an occasional appearance in right field, is reportedly on Boston’s radar. There are also reports of mutual interest between the Red Sox and Jose Bautista. Also, Ortiz himself mentioned Edwin Encarnacion earlier in the year as a potential replacement for him.
The only thing that’s for certain when it comes to the Red Sox replacing Ortiz is that they have plenty of options, both internal and external. Boston doesn’t necessarily need to make a free agent acquisition to replace Ortiz, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. If the Red Sox sign a player like Beltran, Bautista, or Encarnacion, it could free them up to make a trade to address other needs. For Boston, the options are almost endless, making the Red Sox a fascinating team to watch this winter.