Posted on November 7, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Heading into the offseason, first base is one of the biggest question marks facing the Boston Red Sox. After getting a solid if unspectacular season from Mitch Moreland in 2017, the Red Sox are hoping that Hanley Ramirez will be a bigger part of the equation at that position than he was this past season.
Recurring shoulder issues limited Ramirez to just 18 games at first base during the 2017 season. While the Red Sox were covered with Moreland there, they would have preferred more flexibility from Ramirez. The good news is that after undergoing surgery on his troublesome shoulder last month, the club has been told that Ramirez will be able to spend more time in the field in 2018.
“The doctor told him we should be able to anticipate him playing first base if we need him to,” GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters on Monday. “He said with the surgery he had he should have no limitations with his left arm, left shoulder, moving his glove around. That’s not to say he’ll be our first baseman because we may decide to have a first baseman and have him DH. But the anticipation is he’ll be able to play first base for us.”
The Red Sox have already been heavily linked with J.D. Martinez, who is arguably the top position player on the free-agent market this winter. Boston has also been linked as a possible destination for Giancarlo Stanton, who the Marlins appear determined to trade this winter. If the Red Sox acquire either player, they may have no choice but to make Ramirez the primary first baseman.
On the surface, Boston’s outfield is already full. The trio of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts is among the best in baseball when you consider both offensive and defensive contributions. However, if either Martinez or Stanton came to Boston, the Red Sox would have to rotate one of their outfielders into the DH spot almost every day, forcing Ramirez to play first base.
Another option is the Red Sox pursing first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has already been linked to Boston in free agency. Acquiring Hosmer, a Gold Glove winner, would allow Ramirez to serve as the DH most days.
The Red Sox also have prospect Sam Travis, a first baseman who made his big league debut in 2017. Travis could potentially share first base duties with Ramirez. However, that scenario seems unlikely, as the Red Sox appear intent on adding a big bat to their lineup this winter.
“We need to score more runs,” Dombrowski said Monday. “Some of that has to come internal. When you start looking at some of our guys, some of them didn’t have as good, I don’t think, of offensive years as they’re capable of having so some of that increased production comes internally. But we do have probably the open spot of first base slash DH, and so that’s a place we’ll try to create some offense there.”
Dombrowski’s words indicate that the Red Sox will acquire an offensive player rather than give Travis a chance to play regularly. It also means that Ramirez better be ready and able to play first base in 2018. Nothing is written in stone just yet, but the Red Sox are likely going to need more than 18 games at first base from Ramirez next season.