The Cleveland Indians had talks with the Boston Red Sox about a potential swap involving Edwin Encarnacion and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The discussions occurred during an unspecified time during the winter and “died on the vine,” meaning they didn’t get very far.
Nightengale’s comments on the trade talks are brief, not much more than a footnote in a section about J.D. Martinez, but apparently the potential deal fell apart so quickly because the Red Sox were not willing to trade Bradley Jr., who slashed .245/.323/.402 last season and has shown a ton of potential as a 27-year-old outfielder. He is also arbitration eligible through the 2020 season — another reason he’d be attractive to the Indians as opposed to Encarnacion, who is owed $37 million over the next two seasons with a potential $5 million buyout in 2020.
Depending on when the discussions took place, the idea in the back of the Indians’ mind might have been to acquire Bradley Jr. and use some of the money saved from Edwin’s contract to bring back Carlos Santana as a more versatile first-base option. It’s not surprising that the talks happened, and it’s honestly not surprising that nothing came of it. Encarnacion is old and expensive, but he’s also been a hell of a consistent player over the last half-decade, so the Indians are far from desperate to move him; and of course the Red Sox are in no hurry to deal away a potential outfield star in Jackie Bradley Jr.
The curious thing about these trade talks is when we’re hearing about them. As previously mentioned, Bob Nightengale brought up the talks — sourced from “club officials with direct knowledge of the talks” — while speaking about J.D. Martinez’s frustration with the low offer(s) he has gotten in the offseason. Just look at the paragraph that precedes the minor bombshell about the Encarnacion-Bradley Jr. trade.
Martinez can say he’s frustrated all he wants, and threaten not to play in Boston, but if he’s not careful, the Red Sox’s patience may evaporate, too.
If I’m going to put on my speculation hat here, this sounds like something team officials were more than happy to divulge to a trusted journalist like Nightengale, to get it publicly out there that the Red Sox are perfectly happy looking elsewhere than paying Martinez whatever contract he wants. The Red Sox also get to stay looking like the good guys in the potential deal because they refused to trade away Bradley Jr. Meanwhile, it’s now revealed that the Indians were shopping Encarnacion, their highest-paid player, in an effort to lower salary.
Essentially, the Indians were thrown under the bus because Dave Dombrowski wanted leverage in his free agent negotiations.