FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For months, a healthier Hanley Ramirez has been saying he's ready and able to play a lot of first base this season. That is a good thing, because the Red Sox are now going to need him to.One of the main spinoffs from the J.D. Martinez
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For months, a healthier Hanley Ramirez has been saying he's ready and able to play a lot of first base this season. That is a good thing, because the Red Sox are now going to need him to.
One of the main spinoffs from the J.D. Martinez signing -- which could become official as soon as Wednesday after he passes a physical -- is that Ramirez is no longer Boston's primary designated hitter.
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Since the Red Sox have a loaded outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, Martinez will get the bulk of his at-bats at DH. That will leave Ramirez jockeying for playing time at first base with Mitch Moreland.
Provided Ramirez demonstrates during camp that he can produce closer to his 2016 level (30 homers, 111 RBIs) than last year, when injuries to both shoulders hindered his production (23 homers, 62 RBIs), he figures to emerge as the starter with Moreland as the backup. It should be noted that in his strong '16 season, Ramirez started 133 games at first, compared to just 17 last year.
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No matter how it shakes out, Ramirez is thrilled that Martinez is coming on board.
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"We just want to get better and win it," said Ramirez. "It's about the team, the Red Sox. It's good -- this adds more power in the lineup and makes it easier for everybody, so it's not only one or two or three guys. We have more guys who can hit and help us win."
Moreland also expressed a team-first attitude.
"Once we get into the season, it's not about our at-bats," Moreland said. "It's more about the wins and losses. This team and this group has one goal. How we get there, it doesn't matter, as long as we're there and make that goal happen. Obviously [Martinez] is a force."
Manager Alex Cora doesn't mind having to do some juggling to keep all of his players fresh and effective.
"It's very important to have a deep roster," Cora said. "As we know, the times of guys playing 162, that doesn't happen often nowadays. The deeper your roster is, the more options as a manager you have. That's not a bad problem to have. I'll deal with that problem."
It's possible that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski could make a trade to alleviate the logjam for playing time. But for now, it's far more likely he stays the course and takes stock of what he has in Spring Training.
Moreland re-signed with the Red Sox on a two-year, $13 million deal in December. Free-agent signings can't be traded without consent until June 15, per rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. At the very least, the left-handed hitter gives value to the Red Sox as a standout fielder. Moreland has also excelled at pinch-hitting in his career, hitting .307 with three homers, 18 RBIs and an .868 OPS in 85 plate appearances.
It's conceivable that Ramirez, who is due $22 million this season, could be dealt to a team in need of a run producer. But the Red Sox are trying to increase production, not detract from it. It seems far more likely he will stay.
It also seems doubtful Boston will trade Bradley, because Dombrowski places a high value on his defense and said numerous times in the offseason he wasn't inclined to deal him, even if the club acquired a big bat like Martinez's.
The one thing that might make the Red Sox consider trading Bradley at some point is if such a deal could land them a premium prospect. The depth of elite prospects in the farm system has been tapped into the past couple of years in trades for Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale and Thomas Pomeranz.
One thing is clear: Dombrowski now has some options and can deal from a position of strength.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.