Boston Red Sox rumors: Jose Bautista could replace David Ortiz at DH

A Boston Red Sox executive reportedly met with representatives for free agent slugger Jose Bautista. Could he be the team’s next designated hitter?

David Ortiz‘s retirement has left the Boston Red Sox in a position that they haven’t been in for over a dozen years – seeking a new designated hitter to anchor the middle of their lineup.

A number of candidates have floated through the rumor mill, most notably Edwin Encarnacion, who was third in the league in home runs and tied Big Papi for the lead in RBI this season. While he’s considered to be the best hitter on the market capable of emulating Ortiz’s role in the lineup, his steep contract demands may convince the Red Sox to pass in favor of other options that present a better value. In which case, perhaps Encarnacion’s teammate with the Toronto Blue Jays could be appealing.

According to Jon Heyman of Fanragsports.com, a Red Sox executive met with representatives from Jose Bautista‘s camp at the GM meetings in Arizona this week, potentially signaling that the six-time All-Star is on the team’s radar.

“Bautista’s people met for a long time in the lobby here at the Scottsdale Omni with a Red Sox executive, and it’s known that Bautista’s ability to pull and take advantage of the Green Monster came up,” reports Heyman. “But Bautista’s main longtime agent Jay Alou downplayed the meeting, saying he has a longtime friendship with that Boston executive, Frank Wren.”

A conversation between Alou and Wren doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s certainly plausible that this was merely two old friends catching up, which happened to lead to Alou’s client’s name coming up. It’s also feasible that this encounter wasn’t by accident.

The Red Sox are casting a wide net to find potential options to fill the DH role, while they also haven’t ruled out the possibility of filling the position internally. Bautista is one of many names on the list, not necessarily the prime target. However, if Boston is skeptical of shelling out an expensive long-term commitment to the likes of Encarnacion or Mark Trumbo, they may find more value in a player like Bautista.

The 36-year old isn’t going to command a lengthy deal and won’t be as expensive as the other sluggers on the market given that he’s coming off a down year plagued by injury. Bautista hit a meager .234 with an .818 OPS that represents his lowest mark since 2009.

On the plus side, he did his 22 homers in 116 games and is only a year removed from smashing 40. He also owns a career .276 average and .972 OPS at Fenway Park, where he has hit 24 home runs, more than any that he has collected in a visiting ballpark.

Bautista’s preference is to stay in Toronto, but the Blue Jays seem preoccupied with Encarnacion and may not want to pay both of their free agent stars. Alou didn’t rule out Bautista accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer to remain in Toronto for another year if a multi-year deal can’t be worked out.

Boston may not be Bautista’s preferred destination and Joey Bats may not be the top target for the Red Sox, but ultimately settling for one another may turn out to be beneficial for both sides.

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