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Red Sox hunt for DH gets more interesting

November 15, 2016 GMT

The 2017 Red Sox should fall somewhere in the middle of the great baseball spectrum between young and athletic and old and slow. Whoever they sign to help fill the David Ortiz-sized void at designated hitter will skew the scale greatly.

Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, two players who have clubbed their way toward the top of MLB’s great power hitters, are two options who became costlier yesterday.

Both players declined the qualifying offers — a one-year pact worth $17.2 million — presented to them by the Toronto Blue Jays before yesterday’s 5 p.m. deadline. If the Red Sox sign either one, they’ll now have to forfeit their first-round pick (26th overall) in the June draft.

The Red Sox have not forfeited their first pick since 2007 when they lost the 20th-overall selection to the Los Angeles Dodgers for signing shortstop Julio Lugo. The Dodgers then selected right-hander Chris Withrow, who is now a reliever with the Atlanta Braves.

At 39, Carlos Beltran is still available as a DH option. He would not require a draft pick to sign since he was not eligible to receive a qualifying offer after being traded from the Yankees to the Texas Rangers during the season. The Houston Astros are after Beltran with aggressiveness, according to the New York Daily News.

The Red Sox have distanced themselves from the likes of Encarnacion or Bautista because they don’t want to get stuck with a long-term contract at DH. Dave Dombrowski, the president of baseball operations, made that very clear last week during the general managers meetings when he said the Red Sox are likely to consider only a one-year contract for Ortiz’ replacement.

By refusing to go long-term on either of those players he is keeping the roster flexible. If Hanley Ramirez suddenly loses his touch at first base and can no longer be serviceable there, the Sox could slide him into the DH role before his contract is up following the 2018 season.

Pablo Sandoval looked incapable of playing third base last spring and the Sox are hoping he reports to camp next February as a capable infielder. And if he isn’t? Either the Sox have to cut bait on the former World Series MVP or find a way to get him in the lineup as the DH.

Deciding on the next DH will be a difficult decision and the Red Sox are likely to sit on it until the new collective bargaining agreement is signed, which commissioner Rob Manfred believes will happen before the Dec. 1 deadline.

By then, Encarnacion and Bautista should have a better understanding of which teams are willing to pay big for their services.

If the market is thin, maybe the Red Sox swoop in. Otherwise, expect them to look elsewhere and keep their draft pick.