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Red Sox hope '18 lineup sees offensive uptick

Several players seek bounceback seasons as Boston continues pursuit of Martinez
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland last month, it meant that all nine members of Boston's 2017 starting lineup are back in the fold.

It's always good to have stability, but there's also a need for a more productive offense in 2018. Boston finished sixth in the American League in runs last season, but it was 14th in slugging percentage and last in home runs.

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland last month, it meant that all nine members of Boston's 2017 starting lineup are back in the fold.

It's always good to have stability, but there's also a need for a more productive offense in 2018. Boston finished sixth in the American League in runs last season, but it was 14th in slugging percentage and last in home runs.

Even though everybody is back, there are two reasons to believe that the offense will be better in the upcoming season. The first is that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is still working hard to add another bat, and free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez is a name that keeps coming up. The second is that several players who had subpar stats in 2017 are more than capable of bouncing back.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineups of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Red Sox might stack up:

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Mookie Betts, RF
Andrew Benintendi, LF
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Hanley Ramirez, DH
Rafael Devers, 3B
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Christian Vazquez, C
Marco Hernandez, 2B

STRENGTHS

New manager Alex Cora wants to set the tone by deploying his two best all-around hitters at the top of the lineup. He thinks that utilizing the power of Betts in the leadoff spot gives the Red Sox a similar dynamic that the Astros had with George Springer last year. Benintendi was solid as a rookie, but he will become a true force if he can minimize the length of his slumps. Devers has the chance to turn into one of the league's best power hitters, and his presence over a full season rather than just the two months he was on the team last year should make a considerable difference.

Video: Cora is excited to work with Devers

QUESTION MARKS

For the first few weeks of the season, the Red Sox aren't sure what kind of production they'll get at second base while Dustin Pedroia is on the disabled list recovering from left knee surgery. Hernandez, Brock Holt and Deven Marrero are among the players who will get a chance to get at-bats. Another big question is whether Ramirez can regain his form after an inconsistent and injury-plagued 2017 season. The lineup would look a lot more imposing if Bogaerts and Bradley can get closer to their '16 stats than they did last year.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

The one name on the free-agent market that could change the entire complexion of this lineup is Martinez, and that's why his name is continually linked to the Red Sox. He would be the force in the middle of the lineup that Boston badly missed last season following the retirement of David Ortiz. If the Red Sox are successful in signing Martinez, it will be interesting to see how all the pieces fit together. Boston has a full outfield of Benintendi, Bradley and Betts, and also a DH in Ramirez. Unless there is an unexpected trade of Bradley with Benintendi moving to center, the most likely scenario would be Martinez serving as the primary DH. In that case, Ramirez would have to share at-bats with Moreland at first base. The Red Sox could also try to trade Ramirez.

Video: Red Sox may be the favorites to sign J.D. Martinez

So what happens if Dombrowski winds up striking out in his pursuit of Martinez? Perhaps then he would go to the next tier of free-agent hitters, which includes Jay Bruce and Logan Morrison. There's always the chance of a trade. Manny Machado is the best trade option left, but the Orioles are looking for a lot in return. And the fact Machado is a free agent after 2018 complicates the situation.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

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