We all knew this moment was coming eventually. The Large Father, David Ortiz, is calling it a career after the 2016 season. The Boston Red Sox have a team option for Ortiz in 2017, but can now avoid the potentially awkward situation of having to nervously watch Ortiz’s plate appearances tick upwards to 425. Coming off a solid 2015 season, Ortiz will likely go out semi-on-top, rather than face the possibility of a steep decline in his age-41 season. Cue the league-wide David Ortiz retirement celebration parade.
Ortiz retiring is all well and good, but what does it mean for the Red Sox going forward? Will this have any impact on the team’s ability to sign free-agent first baseman Chris Davis? It would have been hard to see the Red Sox being extremely aggressive in their pursuit of Davis before the Ortiz announcement. With the possibility of a 2017 season for Ortiz, committing to Davis now may have been difficult. Now, the Red Sox could sign Davis and have to deal with only one year of figuring out how to balance at-bats and innings at first base for Hanley Ramirez and Davis. By 2017, with Ortiz retired, Ramirez will likely graciously slide into the DH spot and forever forget about bringing his first baseman’s mitt to the ballpark.
How would things work for the 2016 season, though?
If Boston were to sign Davis, it could get a little crowded at first base. Ramirez and Travis Shaw would have been slated to start the year at first base. Davis, however, is capable of playing right field. He showed a strong enough arm, decent range, and overall good athleticism when playing outfield for the Orioles in 2015. Bringing Davis in with the understanding that he could spend time in right field could make it more likely the Red Sox include Jackie Bradley Jr. in a trade for a frontline starting pitcher. Boston really needs to think about selling high on Bradley. The 25-year-old has a .213 career batting average, but his value will be propped up by the fact that he hit .354 for the month of August after being recalled from the minor leagues. What’s being overlooked by most, however, is the fact that Bradley followed that hot month up with a .216 batting average in September. But for that month of August, Bradley was a .190 hitter this season. Bradley should be traded before the rest of the league realizes his month of August was a small sample size.
It makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox to sign Chris Davis to play right field in 2016 while they walk David Ortiz off into the sunset. From there, Boston can swap Davis back to his natural position, or, if he acquits himself well enough in the outfield, keep him in right, insert Travis Shaw full-time at first base, and hide Hanley Ramirez’s glove for the remainder of his tenure in Boston. The Red Sox still have huge needs to fill in their starting rotation, but with some clarity on the future of David Ortiz, pursuing Chris Davis becomes much easier. The Red Sox should have the ability to offer six years and $125 million to land the league’s best home run hitter. Boston should not be viewed as the favorites for Davis, but the Red Sox are now a much more likely landing spot than they were at the beginning of the offseason.