Jose Bautista

Report: Red Sox hold 'long' meeting with Bautista's representatives

Report: Red Sox hold 'long' meeting with Bautista's representatives

We've heard the name Edwin Encarnacion (a lot). We've heard the name Carlos Beltran (almost as much). We've even heard the names Mark Trumbo, Matt Holliday and Mike Napoli.

But we haven't heard much talk about the Red Sox turning to Jose Bautista as a potential replacement for David Ortiz as a middle-of-the-order bat.

Until now.

Jon Heyman, on the fanragsports.com site, reported that "Bautista’s people met for a long time (at the general managers' meetings) with a Red Sox executive, and it’s known that Bautista’s ability to pull and take advantage of the Green Monster came up". 

Conventional wisdom was that Bautista, even though he just turned 36, is looking for a long-term megadeal in free agency and the Sox -- with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval already under contract for the next several years -- weren't interested in committing themselves to another aging slugger for mulitple seasons. But Bautista's mediocre, injury-plagued walk year in Toronto (.234/.366/.452 in 116 games, with 22 homers and 69 RBI) may have reduced his bargaining power, and the Sox could be thinking they can get him on the cheap . . . or at least on the short. A one- or two-year contract would be much more attractive to Boston, as the team attempts looks for an offensive placeholder for a younger bat (Yoan Moncada, Sam Travis, Rafael Devers) currently on the road to Fenway.

Bautista's agent, Jay Alou, downplayed the conversation with the Red Sox, and there's speculation his client -- aware of his reduced value -- may accept a $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Blue Jays. But, in any case, the Joey Bats-to-Boston? talk has started; we'll see where it ends.

McAdam: A look at the Red Sox' offseason shopping list

McAdam: A look at the Red Sox' offseason shopping list

Beginning Tuesday, free agents can begin signing with teams, marking the official start of baseball's offseason.

This one figures to have far fewer dramatic moves than last year, when, among other moves, the Red Sox handed out the biggest contact in team history (David Price) and landed a front-line closer (Craig Kimbrel) in exchange for two of their best prospects.

Which isn't to suggest there aren't significant needs for the 2017 Red Sox.

To begin with, they must somehow find a replacement for the irreplaceable David Ortiz.

Upgrades would also be welcome in the bullpen, and perhaps, the starting rotation, though the latter is more likely to come via trade with such a thin free-agent market.

A look at the needs and some potential targets/solutions:

DESIGNATED HITTER

Let's state the obvious: Ortiz can't be fully replaced. The combination of his consistent production, ability to deliver in the clutch and his leadership skills make him a once-in-a-generational talent.

But somewhere, the Sox need to find a middle-of-the-order force to maintain their offensive might. The Sox led the majors in runs scored last year and it's difficult to envision them maintaining that perch without adding a elite run producer either by free agency of trade.

Top option: Edwin Encarnacion

Little known fact: The Red Sox had a trade in place in 2010 that would have sent Mike Lowell to Toronto in exchange for Encarnacion. But when Lowell indicated he would retire rather than report to the Blue Jays, the deal was shelved.

If the Sox are to make a deal for Encarnacion this winter, it will come at a significantly higher cost. Expectations are Encarnacion will get, at minimum, a four-year deal with an average annual salary in excess of $20 million. It would also cost the Red Sox their first-round pick next June as compensation since the Jays will undoubtedly present the slugger with a qualifying offer.

In spite of the cost, there's little dispute that Encarnacion would be a huge addition. He's actually hit more homers (193-163) and knocked in more runs (550-502) than Ortiz over the last five seasons.

As an added bonus, Encarnacion could be more than just a DH, with an ability to split playing time at first with Hanley Ramirez.

Next level: Carlos Beltran; Jose Bautista

Beltran was a trade target of the Red Sox last July, but making a deal with the rival New York Yankees proved problematic. A switch-hitter, Beltran would give the Sox some balance to the lineup and could, at least occasionally, fill in in left field. At 40, he would likely command no more than a one-year deal with an option for 2018.

Bautista had the misfortune to have a dropoff season in his walk year. His .817 OPS, while hardly diastrous, was his lowest since 2009. He's lost range in the outfield, but could still contribute occasionally. The one benefit to his disappointing 2016 is that he'd come at a cheaper price than teammate Encarnacion. He's has a huge backer in manager John Farrell, who had him for two seasons in Toronto. And more than any other free agent DH available, Bautista would fill Ortiz's leadership void.

Others: Mark Trumbo, Matt Holliday, Mike Napoli

Trumbo represents a pure power bat. He led baseball with 47 homers, but that was something of an outlier since he'd hit 36 homers in the previous two seasons combined. He's also is all-or-nothing hitter, with 170 strikeouts and a propensity for slumps.

Holliday is more of a pure hitter, who hasn't hit as many as 30 homers since 2007, when he played in Coors Field. At nearly 37, he would also represent a shorter investment.

Napoli, of course, is no stranger to the Red Sox, having been a big contributor to their 2013 championship. Well-liked by teammates and the staff alike, he found himself in 2016 after his wildly uneven 2015. Like Trumbo, he's streaky. Unlike Trumbo, he could contribute in the field, and might come with no strings attached since the budget-conscious Indians might not give him a qualifying offer.

BULLPEN

The Red Sox stand to lose two relievers from their playoff roster (Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler), both of whom they could try to retain.

Uehara will be 41 on Opening Day, meaning a one-year deal at a salary far below the $9 million he earned last year. Ziegler can probably command a multiyear commitment and may want to go somewhere he can serve as closer again.

There are a number of top-flight closers (Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman) on the market, but it's hard to envision the Red Sox wanting to commit the money necessary to land one, especially with Kimbrel on the books for next season at $13.25 million, with an option year after that.

TOP OPTION: Greg Holland

After undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing all of last season, Holland is ready to throw for teams this week and the Red Sox plan to be in attendance. He has closing experience, but presumably wouldn't be averse to setting-up Kimbrel -- if the money were right. Holland has averaged 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings in his career and could give the Sox another swing-and-miss weapon in the late innings.

OTHER OPTIONS: Luke Hochevar, Fernando Rodney, Santiago Casilla

Hochevar has had injury issues the last few years, missing 2014 with Tommy John surgery and undergoing thoracic outlet surgery last August, making his availability to start the season a question. But Hochever has multi-inning capability and might be worth a gamble.

Casilla saved 88 games over the last three years, though he lost the closer's job with the Giants in the second half of the season. He still has good stuff (averaging a career-best 10.1 strikeouts in 2016) and could be worth a gamble.

Rodney, too, represents a gamble. He was brilliant with the Padres last year, then disastrous with Miami after a mid-season trade. He has a history with Dave Dombrowski in Detroit, and at nearly 40, wouldn't be in position to demand much in the way of salary.

Encarnacion's 11th-inning HR lifts Jays over O's, into ALDS

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Encarnacion's 11th-inning HR lifts Jays over O's, into ALDS

TORONTO -- Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run homer in the 11th inning off Ubaldo Jimenez, and Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 in Tuesday night's AL wild card game to advance to a Division Series matchup against Texas.

Jimenez relieved Brian Duensing with one out in the 11th, and Devon Travis singled in a 1-1 pitch. Reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson singled on the next pitch, and Travis went all the way to third as left fielder Nolan Reimold bobbled the ball.

With the infield in, Encarnacion sent the following pitch, a 91 mph fastball, soaring into the second deck in left. Encarnacion immediately knew it was gone and raised both arms in triumph, index fingers pointed skyward.

"We were fortunate we had the last at-bat," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.

Baltimore used seven of its 10 pitchers but closer Zach Britton, who was perfect in 47 save chances with a .0.54 ERA during the regular season, never got in the game.

"Nobody has been pitching better for us than Ubaldo," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "It didn't work out."

Britton warmed up three times.

"It's frustrating, but it's not my call," Britton said. "It was just frustrating to have to sit there and watch."

Toronto opens the Division Series at Texas on Thursday. Last year, the Blue Jays beat the Rangers in five-game Division Series, sparked by Jose Bautista's memorable bat flip following a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 5. The teams brawled in May this year when Bautista was punched in the face by Rangers infielder Rougned Odor following a play at second base.

"It's going to be a very interesting series and we're looking forward to it," Encarnacion said.

Francisco Liriano retired five straight batters on four groundouts and a strikeout for the win after closer Roberto Osuna left with a sore shoulder.

"The doctor told me that I was going to be fine, I just need a couple of days," Osuna said. "I've been pitching a lot lately. They think it's just fatigue from the last couple of weeks."

The roof was open at Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, where all 24 previous postseason games had been played with it closed.

Bautista led off the second against Chris Tillman with his fifth postseason homer. Mark Trumbo, who led the major leagues with 47 home runs, gave Baltimore a 2-1 lead in the fourth with a two-run homer off Marcus Stroman.

Ezequiel Carrera's RBI single chased Tillman in the fifth.

When Toronto pinch-hitter Melvin Upton Jr. flied out to the warning track in left field to end the seventh, Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was nearly struck by a can that was thrown from the stands. Center fielder Adam Jones angrily gestured toward the seats, and Showalter came out to register his displeasure with the umpires.

"It's tough when you have that may people in the ballpark and one person does something that reflects portly on all of them," Showalter said. "It can happen in any ballpark. I don't like anything that puts our guys in harm's way.

Blue Jays fans tossed bottles and debris on the field during game 5 against Texas last year, upset at the call that let Odor score from third after catcher Russell Martin's throw back to the mound deflected off Shin Soo Choo's bat.

FOR STARTERS

Stroman allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, struck out six and walked none. Tillman gave up two runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.

EXTRA, EXTRA!

This was the second extra-inning wild card game. Kansas City rallied to beat Oakland 9-8 in 12 innings in 2014.

ROBBIE

Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, who starred for the Blue Jays and Orioles, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.