For many fans and baseball pundits, going after the big bat of new free agent Edwin Encarnación to fill the Red Sox offensive gap left by David Ortiz‘ retirement made a lot of sense.
Encarnación, who just turned 34 years old on January 7th, had a solid, All-Star season in 2016 slashing .263 AVG/.357 OBP/.529 SLG while setting a new career high for RBI (127, the exact same number as Big Papi) and matching his career best with 42 home runs.
For the past five seasons since the start of 2012, Encarnación’s .973 OPS at Fenway Park is second only to Ortiz’ (minimum 150 at-bats) and his .590 slugging percentage for those same conditions is second to none.
Encarnación in a Red Sox uniform, however, wasn’t meant to be. Instead, he signed a three-year, $60 million deal with the Indians that included a club option for 2020 that would earn him another $25 million. The deal represented a bargain for The Tribe, as Encarnación entered the off-season expecting to land a far more lucrative contract.
So why didn’t the Red Sox pursue Encarnación? The Globe’s Alex Speier explains that it’s partly because any deal for Edwin would have cost the Sox a first-round draft pick (the Blue Jays had already extended a “qualifying offer” to Encarnación) and secondly, because that deal would have pushed Boston over the luxury tax threshold for a third straight year, which has significant financial ramifications. If you’re interested in the business of baseball, Speier’s column is a great read.
Now, on to a few other items of interest for Red Sox fans:
- Manny Ramírez, who is appearing this year on his first Hall of Fame ballot and will turn 45 in May, is returning to the field with The Kochi Fighting Dogs of Japan’s independent Shikoku Island League. Ramírez played 19 MLB seasons, including eight with the Indians and then the Red Sox and finishing overall with a .312 AVG/.411 OBP/.585 SLG slash line. Hall of Fame inductees are required to be out of baseball for at least five seasons, but playing for the Japanese club won’t impact Ramírez’ HOF eligibility. Manny’s last MLB game was with the Rays in 2011.
- Blast from the Past II: Daisuke Matsuzaka, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2014, has looked fairly good in winter ball in Puerto Rico. Japan Times says Dice-K “went to Puerto Rico hoping to get himself ready to vie for playing time next year, when he’ll try to make an impact for the first time since returning to Japan from MLB in 2015.”
- Sox infield prospect Sam Travis, 23, looked great last Spring Training and was expected to appear with the big club at least in September before being sidelined by a torn ACL on May 30th. Still, Travis’ path to the big leagues is far from totally blocked, despite baseball president Dave Dombrowski’s recent signing of Mitch Moreland.
- These days, complete games are tough enough to come by, let alone complete game shutouts. Last season, Sox newcomer Chris Sale led all of baseball with six full game efforts for the White Sox, just one of them a shutout. Steven Wright, meanwhile, gave the Red Sox their only CG SHO of 2016 while the American League Champion Indians tied the 2016 league record with three such games, two of them by Corey Kluber. Boston hasn’t had three such pitching performances in a single season since their 2007 World Championship campaign (Clay Buchholz, Kason Gabbard, and Curt Schilling). It has been 28 years since the Sox had double-digit CG SHO in a single season (10 in 1988).