Earlier today, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox have had trade discussions over the winter revolving around outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and designated hitter/ first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Nightengale did not go into depth on this, but it’s still something to think about. When I first saw this, I immediately was against it. If these two were the only big league players involved, it’s tough to say who wins this trade. On one hand, the Indians are losing their best power hitter, as Encarnacion lead the club in HRs, RBIs, and OBP in 2017. On the other hand, they are getting one of the best defensive center fielders in all of baseball. The Indians lost Austin Jackson to free agency, so it’s understandable why they would want to upgrade at that position. Is that defense worth parting ways with one of the best home run hitters in the American League? Probably not.
From the perspective of the Red Sox, acquiring Encarnacion while parting ways with Bradley creates holes and log jams. If this were to happen, I would need to see some corresponding moves and those moves would revolve around Hanley Ramirez and JD Martinez. First, I can’t imagine Hanley Ramirez would stick around if Encarnacion were acquired, he’s essentially an upgrade. Take Hanley away and replace him with EE, and you’re looking at him as the primary DH and Mitch Moreland as the primary first baseman. With that in mind, a hole is created in center field. Sure, Benintendi or Betts could be moved over there, but there is no other player on the Red Sox 40-man who could play a corner outfield position everyday. Brock Holt, Bryce Brentz, and Rusney Castillo all have positive qualities, but I would not want any of those guys handling a full-time position with the Red Sox. That’s why, ideally, JD Martinez would be brought in via free agency to take over for Benintendi in left field. Although his defense is lacking, Martinez and Encarnacion would be one hell of a power duo.
This is the ideal situation. A “big three” of Betts, Martinez, and Encarnacion would be awesome, but it could have happened sooner, and at a lesser cost. Remember, there was interest between Edwin Encarnacion and the Red Sox last year, but nothing transpired because of luxury tax complications. Now, we’re talking about giving up one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball for a 35 year-old Encarnacion, who will be making much more than JBJ will over the next two years both are under contract. If it were me, and Martinez was not signed yet, I don’t think I would do it. Give me the bargain in Bradley and let me try to plug power into my lineup through other avenues.