Boston Red Sox Rumors: Defending AL East Champions To Acquire Chris Sale, Sign Edwin Encarnacion

The Boston Red Sox finished the 2016 season with a 93-69 record, which was good enough to seize the American League East Division crown. Certainly not a bad first season in Boston for new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, but any season that doesn’t end with a World Series title seems like a failure for the Red Sox.

Boston was eventually eliminated in the American League Divisional Series by the Cleveland Indians in three games. It was a disappointing end to the season for the Red Sox, especially considering it meant the end of David Ortiz’s career in Boston. The 40-year-old designated hitter retired following a season in which he hit .315 with a .401 OBP, 38 home runs, and 127 RBIs.

One of the biggest offseason tasks for Dombrowski, according to Boston Globe, is to find a way to replace that kind of production for Ortiz. At the top of the list is former Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who is a free agent this offseason.

Incarnation hit .263 with a .357 OBP, 42 home runs, and 127 RBIs for the Blue Jays in 2016 as Toronto made the playoffs as a wild card team. Edwin is the most capable free agent on the market to step into David Ortiz’s shoes, but there are some drawbacks to signing Encarnacion. Mainly, his age, the type of contract he’s commanding, and the fact that he’s a right-handed hitter.

Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, and Dustin Pedroia are all right-handed hitters which would likely make Boston’s top five hitters come from the right side of the plate. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, as the team certainly needs to find someone to help replace Ortiz’s production, but the Red Sox would probably prefer it be a left-handed hitter.

Another area that Dombrowski needs to address is the bullpen. Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Brad Ziegler all hit the free agent market this offseason which leaves a big void in a bullpen that played a major role in winning the AL East last season. The Red Sox finished ninth in MLB with a 3.56 bullpen ERA in 2016.

Closer Craig Kimbrel will be back and Joe Kelly seems to have found a home in the bullpen which could end up earning him the eighth-inning job in front of Kimbrel. It remains to be seen when Carson Smith will be able to return from Tommy John surgery, which also adds to the urgency for Dombrowski on the reliever market.

Another rumor floating around centers around Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale. ESPN‘s Jim Bowden reports that Dombrowski would love to work out a deal for Sale without giving up prized prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. It may be possible to work out a deal that doesn’t involve either player, but it would be hard to see White Sox general manager Rick Hahn giving up his biggest trade asset without receiving one or the other.

If Dombrowski were able to work out a deal for Sale, the Red Sox would then have a rotation with David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright/Clay Buchholz, and Sale. That would instantly give them the best rotation in the American League and make them the favorites to win the 2017 World Series.

If the Boston Red Sox were able to get Edwin Encarnacion and Chris Sale, they would instantly become the best team in baseball, but that’s certainly a big if.

[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]