The 2016 season is officially behind us and now it is time to look forward to next year. Fortunately for the MLB, baseball’s popularity has grown tremendously over the past month, mainly due to the heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, and electrifying World Series that just took place. With that being said, the MLB should be chomping at the bit to get the 2017 season underway. As for me, the countdown on my phone reads “91 days until pitchers and catchers report,” so you can tell I can’t wait for what 2017 has in store.
This winter will be chalk-full of players moving around to different teams, in hopes to build a roster that can compare to that of the Chicago Cubs. So, let’s take a look around the league and see what big signings may be brewing for the 2017 season.
The Boston Red Sox have a huge void to fill in the middle of their lineup this year, after future Hall of Famer David Ortiz, called it quits in 2016. Therefore, the Red Sox should be keeping an eye out for a big bat that could replicate the production that Ortiz has brought to the lineup for over 13 years. Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, there is nobody in the market that could come close to what Ortiz has provided to this club. Here are a few names that may spark your interest, and could be reputable options to replace Ortiz.
#1 Edwin Encarnacion
The 33-year-old Designated Hitter has been a huge spark plug to Toronto’s middle of the lineup for over 7 years, racking up 5 consecutive 30+ home run seasons. Encarnacion has shown no signs of decline, but eventually his body will begin to break down. If the Red Sox were to sign him, they would have to shell out a lot of money to a player on the wrong side of 30, something that the Red Sox front office has steadfastly tried to avoid. Encarnacion’s bat is exactly what the Red Sox need to replace Ortiz. Hitting from the right-side of the plate, Encarnacion has the potential to light up Fenway Park. In fact, Encarnacion was able to put 4 home runs over the monster in just 37 plate appearances last season, the most he hit in any ballpark, other than his home field. Encarnacion would be the best Free Agent that the Red Sox could pick up, but it is a long shot that they could provide the amount of money he would be looking for, especially with other teams willing to dish out gobs of money to solidify the middle of their lineups.
#2 Carlos Beltran
If the Red Sox are unable to sign Encarnacion, I believe that they would then pursue Carlos Beltran to fill the role of Ortiz. Beltran has been a journey man over the years, playing for 7 teams in his illustrious career. Now 39, Beltran’s best years are behind him but his numbers haven’t dropped dramatically. Beltran can hit from both sides of the plate, with decent power. In fact, in 2016 he hit 29 home runs, which was his best since 2012. His average in 2016 hovered around .300, hitting .295. Beltran would be a fine replacement for Ortiz, but his age is a huge factor. If the Red Sox were to sign Beltran, they would not have found Ortiz’s replacement for years to come. Beltran would be a temporary fix if anything.
#3 Matt Holliday
Holliday has shown clear signs of decline but has been able to put together 20+ home runs in every full season he has played. One thing that Ortiz brought to the Red Sox lineup was his ability to split the gaps and to not only hit for power but hit for average as well. Holliday’s average has declined drastically over the years. In 2016 he hit a mediocre .246 which is nowhere close to Ortiz’s .315. Holliday may be able to bring similar power, hitting at Fenway Park, but he would struggle to resemble the production Ortiz provided for the Sox. Once again, Holliday would be a temporary replacement, eventually causing the Sox to look elsewhere in the future.
As for other teams around the league, there are a few big names that could be on the move.
#1 Dexter Fowler
The Chicago Cubs could not have won the World Series without their Center Fielder, Dexter Fowler. Fowler led game seven of the World Series off with a homerun that set the tone for the Cubs, on their way to their first World Series title in 108 years. Fowler did not stop there either. He patrolled Center Field, making outstanding plays that cut down Indian rallies in multiple innings. With that being said, Fowler’s contract is up and teams around the league will be flocking to try to sign him to a long-term deal. The team that I think will make the biggest push is one that saw a lot of him in October, the Cleveland Indians. It was apparent that the Indians were in desperate need of a Centerfielder during the World Series. Fowler would solidify the outfield and lift Cleveland back to the World Series.
#2 Mark Trumbo
Mark Trumbo had a career season with the Baltimore Orioles in 2016, smacking 47 homeruns and accumulating 108 RBIs. The team that could make a big push for the big power-hitting righty is the Toronto Blue Jays. It looks like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista could be on the move, so the Blue Jays will be in desperate need for a big bat. In addition, Trumbo played games at both first base and left field, being able to fill either position of Encarnacion or Bautista.
#3 Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes has torn up the National League as the Mets big bat in the middle of their lineup. The team that will shell out the big bucks to the Cuban superstar might be the Texas Rangers. Similarly, to the Blue Jays, the Rangers will be losing big hitters to the middle of their lineup. Ian Desmond as well as Carlos Beltran are on their way out of town in Texas. Cespedes will fill the void in the outfield and bring the Rangers back to the playoffs.
Teams all around the league are suiting up to make some huge deals. This offseason is primed to be one for the record books, making the 2017 season something to look forward to.